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Brian Edwards 

Libraries and Learning 
Resource Centres 

- 'vWi I 

ym u 


Second edition 

Libraries and Learning 
Resource Centres 

Second Edition 

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Libraries and Learning 
Resource Centres 


Second Edition 

Brian Edwards 

Architectural Press is an imprint of Elsevier 

Architectural Press is an imprint of Elsevier 

Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford 0X2 8DP, UK 

30 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Burlington, MA 01803, USA 

First edition 2002 
Second edition 2009 

Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved 

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Sa bre Fou ndat ion 


Acknowledgements vii 
Preface ix 
Introduction xi 

Part 1 History of the library 1 

1 History, form and evolution of the library 3 

Part 2 Planning the library 23 

2 Location and site factors 25 

3 Planning the library 35 

4 Space and interior design 47 

Part 3 Technical issues 65 

5 Impact of new information technology 67 

6 Technical factors and engineering design 77 

7 Refurbishment 91 

8 Furniture, shelving and storage 101 

Part 4 Library types 113 

9 The national library 115 

10 The public library 137 

11 The university library 185 

12 The specialist library 227 

Part 5 Speculations 243 

13 The future of the library 245 

Bibliography 263 
Index 265 


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The author wishes to acknowledge the support of the Royal 
Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture. 
Thanks also go to Edinburgh College of Art for financial 
support to allow the author to interview clients and their 
architects, and to visit and research the case studies which 
form an important element of the second edition. Thanks 
also to Wilson Smith, Head Librarian at Edinburgh College 
of Art, for directing the author to relevant articles and for 
his ceaseless enthusiasm for libraries generally. Thanks 
also go to the research students and former colleagues at- 
tached to ACE at Edinburgh University for subjecting the 
author to rigorous examination of some of the ideas in this 
book through the Research Seminar series. 

There are too many organisations, architectural prac- 
tices, academic colleagues and users of libraries to single 
out any for special thanks. All of them provided in their 
different ways the intellectual material, support, plans, 
photographs and documentation contained in subsequent 
pages. However, the author is particularly indebted to the 
Architectural Review , the Architects ’ Journal and Archi- 
tecture Today for allowing plans produced in those journals 
to be incorporated in this book. 

The author is also greatly indebted to Ayub Khan, Head 
of Libraries (Strategy) at Warwickshire County Council 

who provided valuable advice in connection with the 
author’s chapter on libraries in the Metric Handbook, some 
of which is incorporated here. Thanks also go to Andrea 
Kerr of Hampshire County Council for assistance with the 
Discovery Centres. 

Many librarians provided help in various ways, making 
their collections, buildings and facilities available often at 
short notice. Without their support, this book would not 
have been written. 

Many architects, engineers and designers provided ma- 
terial upon which the argument and case studies are based. 
Their help and constructive criticism have been invaluable, 
as have the drawings and photographs provided to illustrate 
the book. 

Finally, there is a considerable debt to Godfrey 
Thompson whose The Planning and Design of Library 
Buildings (1989) for the same publishers provided some of 
the tables and whose arguments are updated in this book. In 
similar spirit Anthony Thompson’s Library Buildings of 
Britain and Europe (1963) proved a useful source of case 
studies and plans. Thanks also go to Biddy Fisher, my 
collaborator on the first edition, for her support, guidance 
and in directing me to important new material. 

Brian Edwards 


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Like any other tourist, he made his way east . . . until he 
reached the Public Library. He had already heard about 
this curious place ... it was a circular building . . . with 
seven or eight cubicles along the circumference. In the 
cubicles were shelves of books along two sides and 
a window in the third. In the centre of the circle was 
a small wooden enclosure where a . . . librarian sat. 

Tom Wolfe describing the public library in Nassau, 
Bahamas in A Man in Full , Picador, 1998, p. 537. 

Even the most misfitting child 
Who’s chanced upon the library’s worth 
Sits with the genius of the Earth 
And turns the key to the whole world 

Ted Hughes (an introductory verse to New Library) 
quoted in Quarto , the newsletter of the 
National Library of Scotland, 
Number 4, Autumn 1998, p. 2. 


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Knowledge and the library 

When fire destroyed the library at Alexandria in 4000 BC, 
over half of all mankind’s recorded knowledge was lost, or 
as Ted Hughes put it in his poem, Hear it again , the 
burning of the library ‘brain-damaged the human race’ 
(Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1999). It was not until 
the development of monastic libraries in Europe around 
1200 that humanity again amassed in a single place what 
approached the collective wisdom and knowledge of the 
age. Libraries may be exchanges of information and market 
places for ideas but they are also the buildings which 
contain the bulk of human knowledge. Or at least they were 
until the electronic digitally stored information revolution 
of the 1980s. Now knowledge is virtually everywhere; it 
has broken free of the constraint of buildings. Today if you 
were today to destroy all the world’s libraries, it is unlikely 
that more than 20% of human knowledge would be lost. 
Certainly, a large amount of archival material would dis- 
appear forever, but a substantial volume of knowledge 
would survive. If a library is a repository of knowledge, 
this is now just one of its functions. The library’s prime 
function is now making that knowledge available and en- 
couraging exchange and reflection upon it. 

Electronic knowledge is nowadays available to every- 
body — in the home, workplace, airport terminal, school, 
etc. The Internet has liberated the library but it has not 
removed the justification for library buildings. It has 
though changed the balance of functionality — there is still 
the agenda of storage with all the difficult balances of 
provision and service this entails — but other functions now 
demand greater attention. Libraries today need to facilitate 
multi-modal access to information and, at the same time, 
encourage the creative use of knowledge. This was not 
considered essential when libraries had a primary storage 
function, but when information is everywhere the chal- 
lenge is one of knowledge use and dissemination. 

The importance of the library to knowledge and hence 
power is considerable. Knowledge, both in a practical and 
cultural context, is a commodity which libraries contain 
and make available. The public accesses knowledge and 
wisdom via the book shelves and archives of the public 
library, and the researcher via the technical reports and 

journals of the academic library. Increasingly, both use the 
library’s Internet facilities to keep up to date with the 
unfolding world of digital information. 

Historically, the library was a private building dedicated 
to an individual, monastery or college. Today, the library is 
electronic and virtual — a building which loosely and ca- 
sually contains the diverse tentacles of knowledge. Yet the 
more the library diffuses under the influence of the com- 
puter, the more important become the architectural anchors 
of the building type. These reside in space, not rooms, in 
the shared theatre of knowledge. Important as the elec- 
tronic screens of the library have become, there is no de- 
nying the social function of the library to a sense of 
identity, community and nationhood. The growth in ‘na- 
tional’ libraries is an expression of the cultural function of 
the library in a world increasingly dominated by global 

Modem libraries began their life as adjuncts to monas- 
teries — secret and sacred worlds within an enclosed, 
sheltered environment. They developed into private book 
collections associated with colleges and, more rarely, 
wealthy landowners. Via the college quad, they evolved 
into places where scholars could gather for private study. 
With the printing press, the library became larger but less 
exclusive. The mass production of books changed the li- 
brary in important ways. The printing of books reduced 
their cost but expanded their social value. By 1500, the 
printed book became relatively common and the library 
was bom. Early examples chained books to walls and op- 
erated the stall system whereby readers perched on high 
seats using books anchored to heavy masonry walls. Later 
the books were placed in locked bookcases and eventually 
on open shelves, arranged in the fashion of a picture gal- 
lery. The long top-lit library with bookcases between the 
busts of benefactors was eventually replaced by the cir- 
cular library with a reading room at the centre and book- 
cases around the circumference. The rotunda form (e.g. the 
Radcliffe Camera, Oxford, and the library of the University 
of Virginia) became the pattern of the eighteenth century. 

The growth in books and readers in the nineteenth 
century changed the library into a rational container of 
reading rooms, control points and book stacks. For the first 
time, book stacks and reading areas became zoned into 



separate functional areas, and with the emergence of 
journals and newspapers, the dominance of the book began 
to be challenged. By the turn of the twentieth century the 
form of the modern library had begun to appear — thanks 
partly to the liberal influence of great benefactors such as 
Andrew Carnegie and to the expansion in higher education. 
For it was the universities which generated and tested new 
approaches to library building design, not the countless 
smaller civic libraries of Europe and America. 

If libraries express one of society’s clearest embodiment 
of the politics of knowledge and the historic dissolution of 
closed sources of power, how have they responded to the 
world of electronically stored information. Just as the 
printing press changed access to knowledge, information 
technology (IT) has revolutionized the library. The su- 
premacy of the book is now challenged and the journal is as 
likely to be electronic as real. Does the library have any 
justification to survive as a building type when the media it 
holds have undergone such profound transformation? The 
answer is, of course, yes for the library is not a functional 
container but a cultural icon. It is the library as social 
symbol that matters — as a centre of community interaction 
and as a place to celebrate learning. Just as the stadium, 
airport and museum symbolize their respective functions 
and transcend limited utilitarian need, the modem library 
celebrates a deep social ideal. The library would be 
needed even if we abandoned the book merely because it 
brings people together in the pursuit of knowledge. So 
essentially, the library is a place for people not books. The 
computer, Internet and electronic media are not ‘ends’ in 
libraries, but the means of establishing social contact in 
what would otherwise be a private world of scholars and 

Changes in how we store and disseminate knowledge 
alter the form and content of libraries but they do not make 
the library redundant. The evolution from the scroll to the 
hand-written book, printed book, mass-produced scientific 
journal and Internet has had the effect of increasing the 
importance of the library. A society dedicated to knowl- 
edge creates a thirst for new information: that the library 
can provide it efficiently and democratically is confirmed 
by every change libraries make to accommodate the 
unfolding technology of media. When Caxton developed 
his printing press at Westminster in 1477, he opened up 
a demand not only for books but for libraries in which to 
store them. The broader knowledge of a few became 
the public knowledge of the many. This fundamental 
change — the bedrock of the Renaissance and the industrial 
revolution — depended upon the essential symbiosis of 
book and library. 

But the shift from a book-based library collection to an 
electronic one has profound implications for library design. 
What is the role of the reading room in an IT library? What 
purpose does silence serve in a library of team-based 
electronic learning? What is the right balance of provision 

between social space and study space? In the electronic 
library, do we need rooms at all or just a large open mar- 
ketplace of digital interaction? Ultimately is open space 
more important than rooms or, given the library’s social or 
cultural role, is the provision of snack bars and cafes as 
important as the study collection? 

The nineteenth century awakening 

Although libraries had long existed up to the nineteenth 
century, it was only after the Public Libraries Act (1842) 
that working class people in Britain could experience the 
building type. The public library was not alone as the 
physical expression of civic duty towards education. Me- 
chanics institutes for the education of adult working people 
became established between 1830 and 1860, the Municipal 
Corporation Act (1835) led to modern local governance, 
the Museum Act (1845) spurred construction in that sector, 
and the Elementary Education Act (1887) gave rise to 
compulsory formal schooling. The Public Libraries Act 
was one of several initiatives aimed at creating a modem, 
knowledgeable, literate society. 

Although some civic libraries initially charged for book 
loan, they became free institutions. The library was an 
essential expression of a caring public authority, and where 
resources were scarce, Andrew Carnegie came to the 
rescue. Constmctional ironwork was essential for carrying 
the loads of books and sometimes for the fabrication of 
the bookcases themselves. In the early years (1840—70), 
ironwork was hidden in the walls and roofs, but towards the 
end of the century it was freely expressed as a stmctural 
material. Sometimes cast into free Gothic or Renaissance 
forms, the iron members gave both modernity and en- 
lightenment to the library interior. 

The civic library leamt from the academic library to be 
symbolic of learning. Sometimes linked to the municipal 
art gallery, sometimes to a new technical college, it in- 
variably carried an inscription about the value of reading or 
education. Unlike the university library, there was space 
for newspapers and popular journals, and many of the 
dispossessed used the library as shelter from the elements 
as well as for daily news-gathering. In this regard, the civic 
library became truly a community anchor in a period of 
social and technological change. Some more enlightened 
libraries (as in East London and Liverpool) provided space 
for local literary and philosophical societies. Here people 
would gather to listen to lectures or watch displays of the 
latest scientific experiments. Luminaries of the nineteenth 
century such as John Ruskin and William Morris often 
addressed their audiences in the lecture rooms of larger 
public libraries. Just as today the library is a high-tech 
gateway to learning, a century ago it provided the oppor- 
tunity through book, newspaper and lecture to keep abreast 
of a rapidly changing world. 


The library of the future 

There are three perspectives which will fashion the library 
of the future: 

• the library as high-tech access to learning 

• the library as community focus 

• the library as an adjunct to ‘cultural’ tourism. 

These views, essentially post-industrial (and hence post- 
modern in spirit) give a role for the library beyond that of 
its functional origins. Just as the modem art gallery has 
become an object of cultural value irrespective of the 
collection it contains (the Guggenheim Gallery in Bilbao is 
one of many examples which could be cited), the library is 
a building which increasingly exists independently of the 
printed word. 

The agent that will make the future library relevant is 
electronic media and all the access it provides for non- 
mobile tourism, education and social discourse. The 
problem is not so much what the library should contain, but 
what form it will take. Is the electronic library a large 
flexible interactive space or should there be rooms in the 
sense of enclosure of subject territory? Also, since our 
global infrastmcture of libraries is already a largely 
constmcted one, the question is increasingly that of how to 
adapt old libraries to new ways. 

These are the challenges libraries face and the reason 
why this book was written. If society loses sight of the li- 
brary as an essential building type, it faces the prospect of 
devaluing the book, learning and ultimately of one of its 
greatest cultural anchors. Libraries have seen more change 
in the past twenty years than at any time in the past hun- 
dred. The library as a building type and as a public in- 
stitution has been put under great strain by the introduction 
of non paper-based information systems. The supremacy of 
the book has been challenged by the digital revolution. 
Computer screens now stand side by side with books and 
journals. IT suites eat into the space once reserved for 
special collections, newspaper reading rooms, children’s 
libraries or bookstack areas. As computerized data and 
retrieval systems encroach upon book territories, the li- 
brary takes on a different character. It becomes more open 
and interactive, it becomes a digital market place and 
readers become navigators of electronic systems. Books 
are not replaced by the changes but take on a different role. 
They tend not to be the first point of contact, but are used 
after the reader has scanned electronic databases. Visitors 
to libraries are now confronted by computer screens, which 
act as traffic lights directing the flow of inquiries into 
different directions. 

Librarians have had to adapt to these changes as much as 
library buildings. Library staff have had to learn to navi- 
gate the new electronic data systems, to accept that 
CD-ROMs have an equal place to that of books, and that 

their role is to guide the reader through the systems 
available, both electronic and traditional. If librarians and 
their buildings are stressed by these changes, so too is the 
very word ‘library’. The library has become the Teaming 
resource centre’. This new title helps signal the new em- 
phasis upon all resources — electronic and book, upon 
learning (not just reading) and upon the concept of ‘centre’ 
as against building. Academic libraries led the change in 
name in the 1990s, but public libraries are now commonly 
called ‘resource centres’. 

There have been inevitable stresses in so profound 
a change of use and identity. This book seeks to draw to- 
gether recent experience, looking via a series of case 
studies from the UK and elsewhere, at best practice in 
different types of libraries. From these it has been possible 
to draw some conclusions and offer the following insights: 
libraries are essential buildings in cementing together 
communities of all types (city, village, academic, pro- 
fessional); libraries remain meeting places but need to be 
designed to be more welcoming and accommodating to 
non readers; IT does not destroy the library but liberates it 
into providing new kinds of public services, attracting 
a potential new audience; the library is a knowledge 
channel which complements schools and college, and 
supports directly ‘life-long learning’; for many the library 
is the vehicle of IT skills transfer — it is the gateway for 
technology migration to society at large; as an institution 
the library is an essential element in a trilogy of investment 
in public services aimed at intellectual enrichment. Its 
partners include the art gallery and museum. All three are 
undergoing cultural transformation. 

These perspectives point to a different type of library in 
the twenty-first century. Many of the case studies illustrate 
this argument and offer a model for others to follow, either 
in terms of the refurbishment of an existing library or the 
design of a new one. Typical of the new generation of li- 
braries is that at Peckham, winner of the Stirling Prize in 
2000 as the UK’s Building of the Year. Designed by Alsop 
and Stormer in the inner city suburb of Peckham in South 
London, the new library is a people’s building bedecked in 
strong coloured glass, filled with Afro — Caribbean col- 
lections, surrounded by new public space and divided on 
the inside into meeting areas of various kinds. This large 
new public library combines traditional carrels around the 
perimeter with ship-like structures towards the centre 
which, in Noah’s ark fashion, house the library’s special 
collections. The building pushes at the frontiers of library 
design, taking the challenge of IT, the needs of young 
people and multi-culturalism as the agenda for a fresh 
approach to library architecture. Peckham Library serves as 
a symbol of economic and intellectual regeneration 
amongst the broken streets of South London. Equally 
importantly, it ushers in a new dawn for library architecture 
— one where people come before books and colour before 

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Part 1 

History of the library 

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History, form and evolution 
of the library 

How libraries evolved 

The emergence of the library, as distinct from the museum 
or picture gallery, did not occur directly as a result of the 
invention of the printing press but as a consequence of the 
growth in rational thought. Most commentators note that 
the library as we know it first occurred in the Renaissance 
with the Biblioteca Malatestiana in Casena and Michel- 
angelo’s Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence. The first from 
around 1450 and the second a century or so later were li- 
braries rather than bookstores. Earlier notable libraries 
such as the one at Wells Cathedral and the Ptolemy Library 
in Alexandria (which contained perhaps half a million 
scrolls) were depositories of written material with only 
a casual distribution of reading space for scholars. 

To be a library in the modem sense, there needs to be 
a collection of books, clear access to the study material and 
a well-designed arrangement of seats and tables for 
readers. This last requirement implies a satisfactory level 
of light, a functional plan with a logical stmcture of 
bookstore, bookshelves, study space and corridors, and 
a level of control over the use and management of the 
space. A library, therefore, is a controlled environment 
designed for the benefit of both book and reader. Against 
this criterion, the modern library emerged not in antiquity 
but on the back of the growth of European rationalist 
thought from the sixteenth century onwards. 

The great flowering of the library as a recognizable 
building type occurred in the eighteenth century. It was 
then that the library emerged with its own taxonomy of 
forms, functions and details. An early example is the 
Wolfenbuttel Library in Berlin (1710), with its elliptical 
reading room set symmetrically within a ‘golden section’ 
plan. This library also was one of the first free-standing 
libraries (as opposed to a library as a wing in a larger 
composition as in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1610). It 
had the authority of formal composition which marked the 
presence of the library in countless cities for two centuries. 
Dome and cube — the former as reading room, the latter as 

bookshelf accommodation — became the elemental archi- 
tecture language for the library. The dome, usually 
surrounded by high-level windows formed in the circum- 
ference of the cylinder as it pierced the cube, allowed even 
light to filter down upon the reader. Those in the reading 
room could also (as in the former Reading Room at the 
British Museum in London) ponder upon their material 
within a volume designed for intellectual reflection. 

The eighteenth century plan had a large area for book 
storage within a semi-basement. The position allowed 
books and journals to be delivered easily at road level, 
temperature and humidity could be controlled more readily 
than at high level and, by elevating the public to a first floor 
approach, the entrance could be grandly marked 

The plan, evolved and perfected through the eighteenth 
century, remained largely unaltered until the early twen- 
tieth century. A few changes occurred such as the in- 
troduction of cast-iron construction (notably at the 
Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, 1868), greater sophisti- 
cation in the control of temperature and humidity (with 
early air-conditioning in some pioneering American li- 
braries at the turn of the century) and improved security of 
the stock; but fundamental change had to wait until the 
1930s. Then the old dependencies of plan and section were 
rejected — the modem library introduced fluid space for 
more fluid functions. The formal repertoire of recognizable 
forms, inside and out, gave way to new unfamiliar ar- 
rangements. The dominance of the reading room became 
eroded, the division between book storage on shelves and 
in store became less certain, and the library became more 
open and egalitarian in spirit. More recently, even the 
primary role of the book has been questioned. New tech- 
nologies in the form of computer-based data and electronic 
images have changed the old assumptions again. As the 
library material becomes more freely available via in- 
formation technology (IT), the library itself has begun to 
adapt to fresh arrangements of space and new inventions of 
form. Whereas it was once an exclusive and often private 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Example of a dome and cube library at the University 
of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson, 1819. (Brian 

press, which led to the removal of chains from many civic 
and university libraries. 

Education too played a large part in forging the separa- 
tion of the library from the cultural precinct of the museum 
and gallery. The formal repertoire of the library was de- 
veloped in the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge and in the 
universities of Paris, Milan and Glasgow. The library, ini- 
tially built as a wing in a college, matured in the seventeenth 
and early eighteenth century into a self-contained building. 
With physical separateness went architectural ambition; the 
library became a building to be viewed in the round. The 
Radcliffe Camera in Oxford by James Gibbs (1740) is 
a notable example. The museum, however, did not reach 
such heights of architectural distinctiveness for another 
century. Without the impetus of higher education to propel 
the building type forward, the museum stagnated architec- 
turally. It remained a gallery-type building — a sequence of 
rooms leading to further rooms on a rather dull circuit. 
Where the circle interrupted the order of the rectangle, it was 
to form small sculpture courts (e.g. the National Gallery of 
Scotland, 1845). Without the impetus of the universities, 
and then of the civic authorities, the museum was not able to 
develop architecturally as fully as the library at least until 

building type, over some 500 years the library has become 
a truly public building with genuine social space and 
community purpose. 

In some ways, the library’s fortune has followed closely 
that of the museum. Both building types share a common 
root and there was not much difference in the architectural 
arrangement between the Renaissance art gallery and that 
of the library. Both were long, evenly lit buildings with 
wall niches for books, sculpture or paintings. Often the 
library sat above the museum in a wing of a larger building. 
In both cases, the user stood or perched on a high seat as 
a spectator of the collection. Construction technology did 
not then allow for wide span buildings, so the column and 
wall bay became the unit of display. Sitting down did not 
occur in libraries until the sixteenth century and in mu- 
seums until the nineteenth century. 

The common root of library, art gallery and museum 
owes something to the nature of patronage. Art collecting 
and book collecting depended upon a sense of history; both 
were revised and made systematic by the Renaissance. 
Paintings, bronze statues and leather-bound hand-written 
books were trophies to be displayed. Collecting is the 
common basis of both library and museum buildings; use 
of the collection for study purposes tended to occur later. In 
some ways it was the growth in education in the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries which split apart the library 
and museum as building types. Education certainly was 
behind the development of the library as an essential aid to 
higher learning. The book became less an object of treasure 
and more an object of use. It was this change in the status of 
the book, coupled with the expanding use of the printing 

Reading Room, New York University, 1895, designed 
by McKim, Mead and White. (New York University) 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Typical twentieth 
century library plan. 
Sheffield University 
Library, 1958, designed 
by Gollins, Melvin, Ward 
and Partners. (D. Insall 
and Partners) 

the nineteenth century. When the museum did evolve ar- 
chitecturally, it was the correspondence between space and 
light which, like the library, led to innovation. 

In the library, the introduction of the central dome 
allowed daylight to penetrate to the interior. With the 
museum, the need to display works or walls without the 
glare of sunlight led to the introduction of large roof lights. 
This was an innovation which revolutionized the museum in 
the early nineteenth century, just as it had done to the library 
a century or more earlier. How differently libraries and 
galleries organize the relationship between space, study 
material and light is one key way in which the two building 
types can be distinguished. Even today with their different 
demands, it is the environmental servicing of space, as well 
as the collection, which fashions plan and section. 

Libraries and the history of space 

Libraries are essentially collections of study material based 
upon the written, and increasingly electronic, word. Being 

collections, they are not unlike other depositories of human 
artefacts such as the museum and, in the need to display the 
material, they are not unlike art galleries. They are also 
similar to museums in their compact between the formal 
language of the container (in the shape of the building) and 
the nature of their contents. The integration of material and 
container allows the library to reflect higher ideals: the 
status of learning, the importance of the written word and 
the symbolic celebration of free access to society’s 

The correspondence between the book and the building 
flowed from the rational nature of thought in the Enlight- 
enment. The library became a ‘safe, well-lit warehouse’ 
(Markus, 1993, p. 171) where the readers’ needs became as 
important as that of the collection. In the nineteenth century, 
and increasingly since, the text of the building and the text of 
the books within shared a common ideal. The formal or- 
ganization of architectural space and the space in the mind 
liberated by the power of the written word became sym- 
bolically united. It is this symbiosis which led to the domed 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Library at Toddington Manor, Gloucester, designed by 
Sir Charles Barry in 1829. (Country Life) 

reading room — itself a metaphor for the human brain. The 
books, inventories, journals, maps and catalogues of the 
modern library are in this sense merely an enlarged version 
of the human intellect. Inevitably, the building sought si- 
multaneously to both control the sum of human knowledge 
within its walls and to celebrate its presence. 

It is not sufficient to see the library as a storehouse of 
knowledge, especially in the age of information technology. 
It is the delicate relationship between the books and archi- 
tectural space which defines the library and helps us classify 
libraries into various categories — national, civic and aca- 
demic. Reading and accessing knowledge via the computer 
screen requires a bond of dedicated effort between the book, 
reader, screen and space. The nature of the space varies 
according to the type of collection, the nature of the library 
and the ambition of the reader. Space is therefore essential, 
but the character of the space is not uniform. The social, 
cultural, political and educational aspirations of the library 
and its collection alter the type and the use of space. 

In the library, a distinction needs to be drawn between 
private and semi-private reading. It is sometimes argued 

The University Library in California supports 
Berkeley’s intellectual vitality and innovative thinking 
in all departments, for both faculty and students. 

that private reading is an inappropriate activity in a public 
library (Roche, 1979). The library is a place of semi-private 
reading at best and it follows that total silence is an ideal 
that cuts across the nature of discourse which the modern 
library seeks to promote. The library is like a bank: there 
are the catalogues with details of customer accounts and 
secured areas with ready currency, but the main activity is 
at the interface between the customer, bank teller and bank 
note. The library too exists to encourage production at 
a similar interface and often the necessary human exchange 
is via the spoken word. 

The nature of space reflects the type of library, the ac- 
tivity in different functional zones and the needs of the 
reader working from book, journal or screen. Book and 
computer screen have quite different environmental needs. 
Reflected light on the screen impairs the ability to work 
effectively over a long period: sunlight on the book also 
creates eye strain (and can fade the printed page). Lighting 
levels for reading are not the same as for computer- 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Changing arrangement of library book storage and use 






Type of space 





and museum 




Open with 



‘Cloister’ system 
with book 

religious books 

6th— 1 3th 


Open cloister 

Tintern Abbey, 

‘Lectern’ system 
with open 
shelves for 
chained books 

books, then 

1 3th— 1 6th 

Standing with 
foot rests 

Linear and 


University of 
Leyden, The 

‘Stall’ system 
with integrated 
partitions and 

Printed books 

1 6th— 1 7th 






‘Wall’ system 
with perimeter 

Printed books 

1 7th— 1 8th 


Circular and 




‘Reading room’ 
system with 
attached book 

Printed books, 
maps, journals 

1 8th-20th 


Open plan centre 
with enclosed 
perimeter rooms 




‘Open plan’ 
system with 
integrated open 
shelves and PCs 

Printed books, 
etc. plus CD- 
ROMs and 
other digital 

Late 20th 


Large, open plan 

Law Library, 





accessed material, while ventilation standards vary 
according to the type of retrieval activity. So space in the 
library is both a question of politics and working envi- 
ronment. The abstractions of function and the dictates of 
health via eye strain and gaseous emissions are in- 
creasingly expected to fuse. 

Over the past two centuries, the balance of power has 
shifted from the book to the reader and more recently from 
the book to digital data systems. This is reflected in the 
emergence of the ‘reading room’. When first introduced in 
the eighteenth century, the reading room was a domed 
space surrounded by books on a wall system (bookcases 
first, open shelves around the perimeter later). After about 
a century, the space in the reading room was colonized by 
bookcases arranged as spokes in a huge wheel of learning. 
Early in the twentieth century, the reading room became 
a foyer space for the library, signifying the importance of 
entrance and exchange with library staff. Books were now 
in rectangular galleries disassociated from the public area, 

which had been transformed from the form of the old 
reading room. Even more recently the library has itself 
become little more than one large reading room — a kind of 
trading floor of electronic learning. Light is carefully 
controlled so that the screen is dominant and ventilation is 
achieved by the use of lofty volumes with roof lights, or via 

The shifting politics of power in the library has been to 
the advantage of architectural space. As the importance of 
the reader has grown under the influences of falling book 
prices, and the ever-lowering cost of information tech- 
nology, so there has been a growing recognition of the 
value of space as the medium of interchange. Space 
allows staff and readers to exchange, readers to interface 
with books and digital systems, the public to experience 
the democratic ideals of the public library and students to 
engage in the pedagogy value of the university library. 
Space, and how it is variously treated, is as important as 
the book. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Brotherton Library, University of 
Leeds, 1935, by Lanchester and 
Lodge. (D Insall and Partners) 

Resolving the demands of space and time 

There has always been a correspondence between the type 
of communication medium, the method of distributing it, 
the nature of the space in which communication occurs and 
society. Over 2,000 years of written communication (or 
3,000 if you include China) the politics of media and space 
have inevitably been closely related. The building in which 
the dialogue between word, book and society has taken 
place is, of course, the library. 

But before the public library, there was the private library 
with its archives of contracts, laws, plans and written cul- 
tural artefacts. Much more recently, the emergence of 
electronic data utilizing websites accessed freely from home 

computers has again led to a questioning of the role of the 
traditional library. Print, post and electronic media pro- 
vide everyday contact with words and the ideas behind 
them. If the library’s role is to remain a centre of word 
culture and democratic freedom in the digital age, then 
there needs to be a smooth interface between books, 
computer screens and people. This requires the integration 
of two types of space: book space with the traditional 
arrangement of shelves, tables and chairs, and computer 
space with its special demands for non-reflective light, 
keyboard elbow room, and places for electronic gossip. 
For unlike the almost universal spread of literacy, not 
everybody at present is at home with the media of elec- 
tronic data. 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Technology and the library 

Type of 


Method of 

Type of storage 

Method of reading 

Type of library 



Stone, clay or 




500-1000 BC 


Papyrus (rolls) 


Standing or reclining 

Private or state 

500-1300 AD 


Animal parchment 
(decorated books) 


Standing or sitting 




handwriting and 

Paper (books) 

Chapel above 




Printing press 

Paper (books) 


Standing with stall 

University and civic 


Mass production 

Paper (books, 




Sitting with tables 

Civic and local 


Electronic digital 


Computer disk 


All types and 


Adapted from Hall, P. (1998). Cities in Civilization. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, pp. 509-510. 

Historically, the pattern of communication has moved 
from durable media (carved stone, parchment) to non- 
durable media (electronic messages). The word power and 
memory of a modem computer equals that of many older 
libraries. With computing you can access whole books and 
reach data sources across the world. Cultural barriers are 
eroded in such a process: ‘place’, whether of countries or of 
libraries, is undermined by the breaking down of traditional 
media stmctures. The decentralization of the medium of 
knowledge has led to lighter, flexible, portable societies 
and transparent, open libraries. It is not the library which 
has changed society, but society and its technologies which 
have altered the library. 

In the process society has shifted from one tied to space 
to one related to time — a distinction between ‘place’ and 
‘time’ was developed by Harold Innis and quoted by Hall 
(1998). Late twentieth century humanity is time-struc- 
tured with spatial perceptions eroded by mass communi- 
cation whether physical or electronic. The library is 
caught in a dilemma — the medium of the library is space 
expressed in rooms and corridors, yet the media of com- 
munication is increasingly unrelated to space. The library 
historically consisted of rooms for books classified neatly 
into subject areas. Today the book exists alongside the 
computer screen — the first is space-tied, the second could 
be located anywhere. How the tension between space and 
time cultures is resolved is the essence of modem library 

The library as a cultural symbol 

It is evident that in the evolution of the library as a dis- 
tinctive building type, the library has spawned certain 
spaces which have both a symbolic and functional purpose. 
By reserving a special place in society for books and 
reading, the library signals the importance of learning. In 
this sense the library is, like the art gallery, a cultural 
signifier. But not all of the library spaces need to gesture 
towards this social or cultural role. Whilst the book stacks 
and offices are not worthy of celebration, the reading room 
certainly is, and so are the routes and staircases which 
provide promenades through the building. So if the library 
is a special type of building redolent with cultural meaning, 
the focus of celebration is primarily an internal affair. How 
the balance of symbolism and function is resolved gives 
character and meaning to library design. 

Like a theatre, railway station or stadium, people gather 
inside libraries: the building is a container which looks 
inwards not outwards. The library is not a building from 
which to view the city but one where the intellectual realm 
of urban society is captured within its walls. The library 
was always so: private libraries of the Renaissance were 
splendid, comfortable rooms with tall windows set between 
built-in bookcases which lined the walls (e.g. Escorial 
Library, 1570). These early libraries were lofty well- 
proportioned galleries which contained the book collec- 
tion, seats and writing space within a single room. They are 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Sunken reading room, 
Viipuri Public Library, 
1933, by Alvar Aalto. 
(Alvar Aalto Foundation) 

more obvious precursors to the modern library than the 
rooms set aside in monasteries for storing and producing 
books. In the latter, books were held in locked chests or 
vaults, removing their sense of presence from within the 
space. Books were not normally read in the library but in 
alcoves set in nearby cloisters. 

It is the ambience created by the books which makes 
a library. The library of the Renaissance was both a cele- 
bration of the book and of reading. The book was set within 
its framed enclosure just like a painting. Bookcases were 
built-in fittings, which ordered the space and determined 
the layout of furniture, windows and lighting. The book 
was prominent and its symbolic presence displayed. In 
these libraries the reader entered the world of books (and 
hence wisdom) rather than as in some modem libraries 
where the book enters the realm of the reader. The reader 
had a special place too, often a bay window or a special seat 
and table set by a window. 

The identity of the library as a building type emerged as 
the importance of the book grew. When universities became 

established as a by-product of the widening of the teaching 
duties bestowed upon monasteries, the book assumed a new 
status. Without access to books there was limited spread of 
education and a new university, once in receipt of its Papal 
Seal, quickly gathered books and built libraries. Influential 
early examples, such as those at the Sorbonne (1485) and at 
Leyden University (1562), placed the library up high to 
avoid damp attacking the paper and chained the books in 
long open lecterns. Reading was conducted in a standing 
position since the chains did not allow the book to travel far. 
But the space was not ordered by the books but by security. 

It was the Renaissance that changed the relationship in 
favour of books. Books were beautiful objects (now 
cheaper with Caxton’s invention of the printing press) and 
their leather bindings became an art form. The spines of 
books framed in their ornate bookcases became the wall- 
paper of the library. As a consequence the library emerged 
as a room to be seen in: a place in its own right in the 
palaces of Europe. This was essentially the model adopted 
by the UK universities with the lecterns converted first to 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Plan of the Reading Room at the British Museum, 
1852, by Sydney Smirke. (Brian Edwards) 

stalls, complete with fold-down seats, and then in the 
seventeenth century abandoned in favour of bookcases. 
The adoption of bookcases revolutionized the concept of 
space in libraries. With bookcases lining the walls, the 
reading area in the centre became the focus of attention. 
The Bodleian Library (1610) adopted the form, though it 
was a century before centralized libraries based upon cir- 
cular forms were evolved. Wren’s unbuilt centred plan of 
1675 for Trinity College Cambridge Library was an early 
anticipation of a form which became common from the 
eighteenth century to the 1950s. 

The wall system with locked bookcases and then open 
shelves lent itself to non-rectilinear planning. Centric 
layouts gave the benefit of perceiving the library as 
a whole, with every book visible at a sweep of the head. It 
allowed for a grasp of the totality of learning since all 
wisdom (at least in the early days) was contained within 
the books on display. Late Renaissance man (not women, 
who were usually banned from libraries until the nine- 
teenth century) could stand in the centre and comprehend 
the world. Such libraries were like the globes which often 
stood within them — a gesture towards control and 

The circular library (or oval as it was often built) 
allowed for ease of supervision and, by setting a circular 

Interior of the Reading Room at the British Museum by 
Sydney Smirke, as restored by Foster and Partners. 
(Nigel Young/Foster and Partners) 

reading space in a square building, the peripheral areas 
could be developed for staircases and offices. The circular 
library, often lit by a central roof light, contained an inner 
ring of reading desks and an outer ring of bookcases 
beyond which was placed a circular corridor. This essen- 
tially was the form of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford by 
James Gibbs (1740) and the Reading Room at the British 
Museum Library (1852) by Sydney Smirke. In these ex- 
amples, the cultural value of reading and scholarship was 
expressed in a grand and often domed space. The intellect 
had in a sense won over the book. The library was not just 
a place for storing and reading books, but also a public 
space for the expression of collective scholarship. 

The Reading Room at the British Museum had a major 
influence on library design for nearly a century. The plan 
form with staff at the centre of a radiating system of 
bookcases, reading spaces and controls had the logic of 
marrying space, function and administration. Although the 
British Museum’s stock at the time exceeded a million 
volumes, only the most important works were on display 
with the remainder kept in iron-framed book stacks behind 
the scenes. It was a library essentially of public parade and 
many, such as Karl Marx, benefited from its uplifting 
ambience. Such was its reputation that Smirke’ s circular 
design was repeated at the Library of Congress in 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Washington (1897), the Prussian State Library (1914) and 
the Stockholm City Library (1928) (Graham, 1998, p. 74; 
Markus, 1993, pp. 172-178). 

In an ideal library, readers, books and staff coexist in the 
same space. The circular library allowed this to happen 
because the book collection was not that large, the ar- 
rangement of books on the shelves corresponded directly to 
the catalogue and the reader could browse unimpeded by 
subject walls. Space in this sense ordered knowledge. But as 
libraries grew and subject boundaries became more rigid, 
a single centric library became untenable. The eighteenth 
century ideal of the ‘universitality and perfectibility of 
knowledge’ (Graham, 1998, p. 74), which the circular li- 
brary expressed so vividly, failed to meet the demands of 
growth in stock and specialization of knowledge. Lateral 
thinking, which the circular form encouraged, was replaced 
by the idea of subject libraries each with their own rooms 
and disciplines of storage and use. 

This change in emphasis grew directly from the growth 
in the number of books and the diversification of fields of 
knowledge. Before the concept of the self-renewing library 
where new stock is balanced by the withdrawal of old 
material, the library simply expanded to house the growth 
in publications. Rigid walls and equally rigid management 
can, however, impede the effectiveness of a library. The 
system of a central reading room with peripheral subject 
libraries and separate book stacks evolved as a means of 
accommodating the uncertainties of future change. The 
latter could expand without undermining the quality of the 
library’s most important inheritance as a building type — 
namely, the reading room. 

By the nineteenth century, the idealized circular library 
of interdisciplinary scholars sharing a common cultural 
space was replaced by the introduction of specific rooms 
for elements of the collection (science, humanities, etc.). 
The development of classification systems (such as that 
evolved by Melville Dewey) encouraged the division be- 
tween open- shelf and book- stack storage. The sequential 
arrangement of books led to subject partitioning which 
effectively undermined the symbolic value of the library as 
social signifier whilst, admittedly, improving its useful- 
ness. It was a victory of functionalism over meaning. The 
present day library has necessarily to grapple with the 
demands of both. 

If the central circular reading room suggests the ordering 
of knowledge, how is the modern library to evolve given 
the unprecedented growth in the scale, complexity and 
format of knowledge? How is the library to communicate 
its high cultural duty whilst also satisfying the demanding 
strictures of almost instant access to book and electronic- 
based information? The answer lies in the balance between 
single monumental spaces and functionally specific ones. 
The new national libraries in London, Paris and Frankfurt 
all distinguish between the two although in quite different 
ways. In each case a large foyer space, rotunda or central 

garden signal the presence of an intellectual realm — or 
space for reflection. The functional parts — specific reading 
or research rooms — are accessed via these bigger uplifting 
spaces. Each feeds upon the other as knowledge and theory 
interact. The science reading room at the new British Li- 
brary is enclosed and studious, and hints at the indisput- 
ability of facts. The foyer spaces are lofty interpenetrative 
volumes where the mind is encouraged to wander— seeking 
perhaps to join together knowledge gathered elsewhere but 
in new ways. Monumental spaces have a role in libraries 
but their role is not primarily functional. 

Until the mid-twentieth century, the library was gener- 
ally classical in plan with a central reading room about 
which were placed, normally on sub-axes, various subject 
libraries. This was the form most commonly adopted after 
the public library movement of the 1860s. In fact, of the 
600 new public libraries built in the UK between 1885 and 
1920, the main element of interior design was provided by 
a central, often circular, space (Whittick, 1953). A fine 
example from Sweden is Gunnar Asplund’s design for the 
city library in Stockholm (1928), which sits within a rect- 
angular embrace of subject libraries, study rooms and of- 
fices. Books are placed in three tiers of radiating shelves 
around the perimeter of the reading room with a large 
bookstore in the basement immediately below. A slightly 
different form is Manchester City Library, designed by 
Vincent Harris a year later. It is modelled closely on 
Smirke’s design for the British Museum but here there is 
a further band of libraries and exhibition space forming an 
outer ring to the building. In each case the reading room is 
not just pivotal in plan, it is also lofty, ordering the section 
as well. 

Such spaces are monuments to the mind and its imagi- 
nation, but difficult to justify in practical terms. By the 
1930s more strictly functional solutions became com- 
monplace. They tended to give equal weight to the parts of 
the library, arguing that use legibility was more important 
than hierarchy or symbolism. Typical of the modern 
functional approach to library design is Alvar Aalto’s li- 
brary at Viipuri (originally in Finland but now in Russia). 
Designed in 1933, the distribution of parts and outward 
architectural forms give direct expression to the internal 
arrangement. There is no grand shared space or reading 
room: instead there are wings of libraries and lecture rooms 
for different purposes. Only the double flight staircase of 
the lending library hints at finding time to reflect upon the 
books or journals read. Even in the hands of a master ar- 
chitect, the library seems bereft of symbolic calling. After 
all, books are not read for the purpose of gaining knowl- 
edge alone: they are the means by which both facts and 
wisdom are acquired. The traditional reading room was an 
expression of non-linear thinking. 

This critique of the history of libraries helps clarify the 
issues designers and libraries face today. If a library is to 
celebrate the triumph of scholarship over the acquisition of 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Plan of Stockholm Public Library, 1928, designed by 
Gunnar Asplund. (Stockholm Public Library) 

mere knowledge, then its form should perhaps transcend 
strict functionalism as the basis for building design. What 
is more, when the vehicle for gaining knowledge and hence 
wisdom is the computer and its systems of e-mail, Internet, 
web pages and CD-ROMs, then is not the computer suite 
the contemporary version of the reading room? Or taking 
the argument further, is not the space to be given meaning 
not physical space but electronic space? Is not the modem 
library really a virtual world which we access if not from 
our homes at least from a special kind of building? If that is 
so, should not the library be a kind of cybercafe — a place 
where minds meet rather than a building where the reader 
joins the book? Ultimately, new technology makes space 
redundant: it leads to the death of distance as a factor in 
building design. When the reader can access every text 
from a single screen the assumptions upon which library 
design are based erode. With the loss of functional space 
goes the need to reappraise the purpose of the library as 
a building type and the spaces within it. 

Some new lightweight, flexible, interactive libraries have 
begun to address the new agenda. Built mostly for 
expanding universities, these libraries for a digital age are 
fundamentally different from their predecessors. They re- 
semble call centres or the trading floors of stock exchanges. 
Readers face electronic screens, scanning various sources of 
information in parallel. The screen on the desk provides 

Manchester Central Public Library, 1935, by Vincent 
Harris. (D Insall and Partners) 

access to more information than was available in Smirke’s 
library — a single scholar can virtually dip into all the world’ s 
information with a click of the mouse. But do new media 
make all of the old ideas obsolete? What is evident from new 
electronic libraries is the presence of generous communal 
space — a kind of modem computer-centred reading room. 
These spaces perform much the same symbolic role as the 
traditional centric library. It is space for the collective in- 
tellect: a volume in which to gaze hazily at the impossible, to 
share in the experience of inquiry with like minds. In this 
important sense the library has not really changed: it re- 
mains a special kind of building which signals the value we 
place upon learning and culture irrespective of the media we 
employ (Graham, 1998, p. 72). 

From hybrid to specialization: the emergence 
of the modern library 

The cultural quarter in Alexandria contained a typically 
Hellenistic collection of public buildings and civic spaces. 
Here in the second and third centuries there existed a li- 
brary, a museum and a debating chamber arranged in 
a typically Greek composition of loosely flowing parts. The 
grouping set the pattern through the Renaissance and 
beyond of library, museum and art gallery in planned re- 
lationship. For economy, library and museum were often in 
the same building, either directly above each other (as in 
the Royal Museum in Munich, 1570) or as separate wings 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plans of Viipuri Public Library, 1933, 
designed by Alvar Aalto. (Alvar Aalto 

in a larger public building. It was largely the need for roof 
lighting of museum exhibits which, from the early nine- 
teenth century onwards, formerly split the two buildings 
apart. The public library (normally positioned above the 
museum because books were more easily moved than 
statutry) emerged as a distinctive building type when the 
display and lighting problems of the museum and art gal- 
lery were resolved around 1800. Although academic li- 
braries had gelled into a recognizable taxonomy of 
arrangement by about 1600, the public library did not 
mature as a building type for a further two centuries. 

Many examples of joint museums and libraries existed, 
however, in the nineteenth century (e.g. the British 
Museum, 1855, and Grenoble, France, from 1862) and into 
the twentieth (e.g. Huddersfield, UK, in 1930). The 

technical problems of lighting galleries and libraries were 
so different that the impetus for functional separation was 
more practical than cultural. But the division was rein- 
forced by the nature of finance available. The Peabody 
Trust from around 1860 and the Carnegie Trust from 1896 
accelerated the development of library buildings in the 
USA and UK largely on philanthropic grounds. The library 
(rather than the museum or art gallery) was seen as es- 
sential for the education of ordinary people. Often in 
partnership with civic authorities or local benefactors, both 
trusts spawned countless new library buildings, mainly in 
the new industrial cities of the late nineteenth century. 
Most acknowledge that the first public library was built at 
Peterboro in New Hampshire in 1833 (Pevsner, 1976). 
Boston Public Library, which opened in 1854 and was 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Plans of Swiss 
Cottage Library, 
London, 1966, 
designed by Sir 
Basil Spence. The 
building captures 
the spirit of the 
modern democratic 
public library. 

significantly extended in 1890 by McKim, Mead and 
White, is an important early example in the USA. The first 
public library in Britain was the Warrington Public Library 
(1848), followed by Manchester Public Library (1852) 
(Pevsner, 1976). 

The public libraries of the nineteenth and early twentieth 
centuries differ from university libraries in three important 
respects: they were free and open to all, they had wel- 
coming interiors with direct entrance from the street and 
there was less emphasis upon the ‘Reading Room’ and 
rather more upon the book stack. As a consequence, the 
plan of dome and cube which had marked development 
hitherto became replaced by the use of separate de- 
partments. The modem library contained a reference sec- 
tion, a journals and newspaper area, a children’s library and 
so forth. The library desk too became important, both in 
terms of security and providing information for users, 
many of whom were ill-educated. As the social function of 
the public library grew, so too did the volume of the en- 
trance space. In some libraries the circular reading room 
migrated in the plan to become the reception foyer. These 

changes necessitated alteration to the arrangement of 
windows. By the 1920s, long low bands of windows had 
replaced the tall lights of earlier libraries. Horizontal not 
vertical light was needed for the low tables and book- 
shelves of the modern public library. Rooms were not high 
and deep, but shallow and friendly. Democracy had altered 
the plan and the details of constmction just as the advent of 
higher learning at the universities had altered the form of 
the library three centuries earlier. This change is most 
evident in the smaller public libraries, such as those built in 
the new suburbs by the London County Council and the 
many small town libraries of East Coast America designed 
by Henry Richardson. 

The pursuit of openness and horizontality was made 
possible by innovations in constmction technology. The 
development of iron-framed constmction and then struc- 
tural concrete liberated the walls from providing anything 
other than symbolic enclosure. The library stmcture 
became increasingly high-tech, allowing bookshelves to be 
placed almost anywhere. Walls and partitions could be 
freely disposed, altered over time to suit change in 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Children’s Library at Mission Bay Public Library, San 
Francisco. (Brian Edwards) 

management philosophy, and kept low to encourage the 
sense of fluidity of space. The introduction of new con- 
struction technology liberated the library from old con- 
straints (such as structured span lengths, vertical 
movement via stairs and opening windows for ventila- 
tion). By 1900 the library had a steel or concrete frame 
divorced from the brick or stone external envelope, a lift 
to move people and books, and primitive air-conditioning. 
These innovations occurred not in academic libraries but 
in the major public libraries of France, Germany, England 
and America. 

The public library has been described as a building 
where the ‘curious and impatient enquirer and the bewil- 
dered ignorant might freely repair’ (Fletcher, 1894). The 
key aspects of the modem library are free, unhindered 
access to the reading material, the lending of books and 
other material, and the provision of a physical environment 
which not only invites entry but encourages users to dwell 
upon the material. These elements, coupled with new ap- 
proaches to design and constmction, led inevitably to 
countless modem public libraries around the world. Dif- 
ferences in form and arrangement are slight compared to 
the variation in academic libraries which, with their greater 
focus upon computer-based study collections, remain 
fundamentally different. Another group of distinctive li- 
brary types are the national libraries where the scale of the 
collection (many in excess of 15 million books), the extent 
of scarce or valuable material, and the fusion of traditional 
and digital retrieval systems makes for another key 

Learning Resource 
Centre, University of 
Sunderland, 1996, 
designed by Building 
Design Partnership. 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Horizontal space boldly 
expressed in the 
Hallward Library, 
University of 
Nottingham, designed in 
1973 by Faulkner- 
Brown, Hendy, 
Watkinson and Stonor. 
(University of 

The twenty-first century library 

After years of relative neglect as a building type, the library 
enjoyed a renaissance towards the end of the twentieth 
century and into the twenty-first. Interesting new solutions 
to the architecture of the public library appeared, first at 
Peckham and Whitechapel in London to designs by Will 
Alsop and David Adjaye respectively, and in Vancouver 
and Seattle to designs by Moshe Safdie and Rem Kool- 
haas. In parallel, national libraries underwent exciting 
transformations, as in Paris to designs by Dominique 
Perrault and in Alexandria by the architectural practice 

known as Snohetta. The libraries of colleges and uni- 
versities were also transformed into dramatic enclosures 
for knowledge dissemination, research and learning such 
as at Thames Valley University designed by the Richard 
Rogers Partnership and more recently at the Saltire 
Centre at Glasgow Caledonia University to designs by 
BDP. These and countless other examples examined in 
the new edition of this book signal the re-emergence of 
the library as a building of architectural significance. In 
this it is following in the footsteps of the art gallery and 
museum — buildings where cultural and social engage- 
ment matter as much as the collections they house. In 

Major libraries and their collection 




Collection (books) 

British Library, London 



15 million 

Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris 



12 million 

Library of Congress, Washington 



21 million 

Mitchell Library, Glasgow 



8 million 

New York Public Library 



5 million 

Manchester Public Library 



4 million 

Harvard University 



10 million 

Bodleian, Oxford University 



4 million 

Glasgow University 



3 million 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Seattle Public Library, designed in 2004 by OMA/Rem 
Koolhaas, signals a new approach to the design of the 
building type. (Brian Edwards) 

many ways the library has ‘shrugged off its origins as 
a sternly patrolled repository of knowledge’ to become 
a place for ‘encounter, communication and research’ 
(Bertolucci, 2004). 

The reasons for the revival of interest in the library are 
threefold. First, new media technologies, particularly IT- 
based knowledge packages and universal Internet usage, 
led local government and universities to a reassessment of 
the role of libraries in a digital and multicultural age. 

Interior of Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonia 
University, designed in 2005 by BDP. This 
IT-based library creates a variety of spaces for 
informal learning and socializing. (Brian Edwards) 

Second, the resurgence of interest in other building types — 
notably shopping malls and art galleries — encouraged 
often conservative public clients to see libraries as build- 
ings to visit in their own right rather than merely providing 
a desk on which to read a book. Third, the expansion of 
higher education has led to a radical reassessment of the 
role of the academic library in teaching and learning, and 
this in turn changed attitudes in the public library, espe- 
cially in the area of IT provision and widened access. In 
fact, one trend in recent provision is the blurring of types of 
library, with university libraries increasingly providing 
facilities for the general public and public libraries in- 
corporating seminar and study space for use by students at 
local schools, colleges and universities. 

By the early twenty-first century, libraries with exciting 
public spaces, interesting exterior forms and more ‘market 
place’ interior qualities had begun to appear. Typical 
examples in the UK were Brighton Public Library by 
Bennetts Associates and in Canada the new Montreal Public 
Library by Patlcau Architects. What these have in common 
is their attention to urban presence as well as building 
design, the creation of study areas and cafes which invite 

Main factors leading to change in design of library 

• New information technology especially electronic data 

• Greater community and educational role for libraries 

• Expansion in higher education and growth in life-long 

• Impact of popular culture on libraries 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Brighton Public Library 
signals the importance 
of the library as an 
expression of 
democratic space - 
a place for people to 
meet as well as read. 
(Bennetts Associates, 
Brian Edwards) 

contemplation and reflection on the knowledge gained, floor 
layouts which encourage information exchange across 
media types, and the abandonment of the sterile silent world 
of the typical library. As a result different areas of the li- 
braries took on the qualities of bookshops and cafes on the 
one hand, and computerized trading halls on the other. The 
library in effect began to assume many functions and guises 
reserved for other types of building in an attempt to adjust to 
wider changes taking place in society. 

Of all modern building types few have been as stressed 
by the twin currents of technological and social change as 
the library. New digital media, ready access from home to 
the web and lowering costs of laptops have conspired to 
change the role of the library from a book to a multimedia 
depository. Coupled with this, wider changes in society, 
such as the need for language support associated with the 
growth of people migration and the greater emphasis on 
higher education and life-long learning, have added to the 
stresses of technological change. The two are not un- 
related: technological innovation has fuelled social change 
whilst new patterns of work have required new skills and 
these in turn have generated new forms of information and 
entertainment media. The affects on the library have been 
twofold. First, there is pressure to adapt existing library 
buildings to meet the needs of the twenty-first century 
whilst, second, a fresh generation of libraries has emerged 
under various names such as mediateques (mainly in 
France), idea stores, discovery centres and the like. This 
book focuses upon the design challenge posed by libraries 
in an age of rapid change. Through various case studies 
under the four headings of national libraries, public li- 
braries, academic libraries and special libraries, the book 

seeks to explore the architectural consequences of these 
social and technological shifts on one of our most familiar 
and cherished building types. 

In a remarkably short generation libraries have changed 
from being repositories of books, newspapers and journals 
to being local knowledge centres playing their full part in the 
modem age of digital media. Today the typical library is an 
interactive network which encompasses books, journals 
(many of which are electronic), CDs, videos, Internet 
sources and sometimes special collections. Increasingly the 
network contains links to the home and study centres, 
thereby supporting independent learning and reinforcing the 
role of schools and colleges in the community. Many uni- 
versity libraries have done the same thing with links to 
private research centres and local businesses. This widening 
of the economic, cultural and social role of libraries has been 
accompanied by a change in design values and a broadening 
of the brief of a typical library. In effect the twenty-first 
century library is a knowledge grid and information gateway 
with tentacles spreading across continents, into homes and 
offices via laptops and ipods. Wire or wireless, these ten- 
tacles are synchronized, managed and often cultivated 
within libraries by librarians whose role is to guide readers 
through the ever-expanding world of knowledge. The role of 
the library building is not so much to contain that knowledge 
but to make it available in such a fashion that the process of 
discovery is stimulating, pleasurable and uplifting. 

Rather than lead to the obsolescence of the library, new 
technology has liberated the building from increasingly 
unpopular stereotypical forms, and altered the fundamental 
assumptions behind their design. One such is the domi- 
nance of the book and the associated requirement for 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

A strong street presence 
is needed for today’s 
libraries as here at San 
Francisco Public 
Library. (Brian Edwards) 

silence in all but designated areas. The strategy today is to 
encourage the sharing of knowledge and to welcome the 
use of the spoken word either between individuals or in 
groups. Since the library is often used for teaching and 
learning within the community, silence is expected only in 
private study areas. Elsewhere the pleasure of discovery 
and exchange is welcomed, as is the talking computer and 
the tapping of keyboards. Restricting silence to special 
areas allows the remainder to become a place for sharing 
ideas and jointly pursuing knowledge. In an age where 
knowledge and creativity are the new forms of wealth 
creation, the library, whether academic or public, has 
a crucial role to play in equipping people with the skills 
needed in a changing world. 

Another change is the assumption that print is paramount: 
although books remain vital to the library, the first point of 
contact is usually the computer screen. The interaction be- 
tween digital knowledge and the printed word is a dynamic 
one which requires space characteristics different from the 
traditional library reading room. Many modem libraries 
place the computer screen at the front door allowing the 
reader to pass through knowledge layers as they navigate the 
library. The role of library staff is to aid navigation through 
types and modes of knowledge rather than exercise security 
or merely sit behind a desk stamping the books as they are 
borrowed. In directing readers to the material, there is 
a great deal of interaction, both verbal and digital, which 
inevitably affects the interior layout. 

In charting the impact of the IT revolution on the design 
of libraries it is tempting to dismiss the book as an obsolete 
form of media. This is far from the tmth. Books are es- 
sential to the justification of the existence of libraries. In 
fact one of the key roles of national libraries is to be 

a deposit of every printed work, and the public library owes 
its local justification and remit to the ability to make 
available books on loan to the community. In spite of the 
growth of e-books, people still like to read from hardcopy 
books rather than from a screen. Downloading books is 
becoming ubiquitous (especially for students and pro- 
fessional readers) yet society still enjoys books for their 
cache and flexibility. Digital readers are limited by both 
copyright law (you cannot copy an e-book to a friend) and 
the availability of technology. Books are physical entities 
which communicate to the world that their readers are 
culturally informed and hungry for knowledge. To borrow 
a book is to send a message that the screen denies. That is 
why readership and buying of books continues to rise in 
spite of the growth of anti-book technologies. 

A significant shift over the past two decades has been the 
increasing role of libraries in life-long learning, in pro- 
viding community information, and in supporting the needs 
of the elderly. By 2020, 50% of Europeans will be over 50 
years old and for this section of the population, the library 

Contemporary role of the public library 

• Helps cement together a community 

• Provides meeting places 

• IT learning and support centres 

• Complements art gallery and museum as cultural 

• Life-long learning centre 


History, form and evolution of the library 

Library types and functions 

Library type 

Characteristic features 

National library 

Legal deposit (all published books deposited) 

Comprehensive book and journal collection 

Attached special collections (e.g. Kings Library at British Library) 

Reference rather than loan 

Wide range of supporting activities (conservation centre, bookshops, exhibition area, cafe) 

Public library 

Loan rather than reference 

Supporting community or social activities 

Mainly book-based (as against journal or electronic) 

Special libraries for children, elderly, local study 

Academic library 

Emphasis upon supporting learning 

Extensive research material 

Large journal collections 

Extensive electronic/computer systems 

Networks to departmental libraries 

Virtual library 


Can be associated with cybercafes or traditional library 

Exists independently of buildings 

Requires home or office based computer network 

Special library 

Collection based on famous individual, topic, event or place 

Not normally for loan 

Mainly research-based 

Provides archive and conservation function 

Visit often by appointment 

Professional library 

Special collection to serve professional body 

Material not normally for loan 

Often associated with exhibition area 

Extensive archive and journal collections 

Contains a wide variety of material (photographic, letters, plans) 

has particularly important services to provide. This has 
ramifications for the design and layout of library buildings, 
the level of lighting and provision of such things as toilets 
and disabled access. For people who do not possess En- 
glish as their first language, for the poor seeking welfare 
support, and for individuals who are newly arrived in an 
area, the library is often the first point of contact with 
a neighbourhood. Hence, the qualities and values 
expressed through architectural design leave a lasting 
impression. For these reasons the library today is seen as 

a gateway to learning and a shop window of both 
knowledge dissemination and access to educational or 
community services. 

The dynamic relationship in the former generation of 
library buildings between the lending library, reference 
library and reader room has been replaced by a new set 
of interacting functions. Today the library contains spaces 
for the print collection, the digital collection, and asso- 
ciated cafe, community and educational areas. This change 
has fundamentally altered the nature of the building. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Rather than face declining numbers of users, today’s 
library is full of life and activity, and many of the new 
users were not visitors to the old generation of libraries. 
One important challenge into the twenty-first century is 
to accommodate these changes without destroying the 
library as a familiar and much loved building type. For in 
spite of the many examples discussed later, many library 
managers and their architects ‘seem fixated on the classic 
book-dominated library and have great problems rede- 
fining libraries for the electronic age’ (Latimer and 
Niegaard, 2007). 

‘Library’ - a definition 

The standard dictionary definition (derived from the New 
Collins Concise English Dictionary , 1974) of a library 
distinguishes between the library as space, the library as 
collection and the library as institution. A library is either: 

• a room or set of rooms where books and other literary 
materials are kept 

• a collection of literary materials, films, tapes, etc., or 

• the building or institution that houses such a collection. 

However, a more contemporary definition of a library is 
a building where knowledge is collected, stored and made 
available mainly free of charge. Such knowledge can be in 
book, journal or other forms of paper format, may consist 
of photographs, maps and graphic representations, or may 
be based on digital and other forms of electronic media. 

As such, for the sake of this edition a library is a building 
designed to contain and make available for use a collection 
of book and other forms of published paper-based material, 
plus the facility to access information by electronic means. 
In this context the word: 

• ‘contain’ means to secure, preserve and present the 

• ‘designed’ refers to a conscious act of creating such 
a building with the dual purpose of meeting the needs 
of the collection and the library user 

• ‘make available for use’ embraces the ability to borrow, 
retrieve, read and copy aspects of the collection. It also 
includes the ability to access electronically information 
held in digital formats and to interface this with paper- 
based material. 

Consequently, a library is a building where books, e- 
knowledge and people meet in largely convivial sur- 
roundings without the obligation to purchase. Such defi- 
nitions can be further expanded to include types of 
libraries. For example: 

• A national library is one where depositions of books and 
other material of national importance are housed. In such 

a library, the emphasis is upon comprehensiveness of 
collection, plus the safe housing and conservation of 
scarce material. 

• A public library is one where depositions of books and 
other material are housed primarily for loan. Such a li- 
brary would normally provide study and other material 
for use by community groups or for local social 

• An academic library is one where books, journals and 
other material, particularly electronic information sys- 
tems, are housed primarily to support learning or research. 

• A virtual library is a collection of library material 
housed primarily in electronic formats and accessed 
via networked computers. Such a library may be partly 
or wholly independent of physical enclosure. 

• A specialist library is a collection within a room 
or building dedicated wholly to a specific subject. 
Normally special collections are based upon individuals, 
topics or places. 

• A professional library is a collection developed specifi- 
cally by a professional body to serve its members. The 
collection would normally contain a wide range of li- 
brary material which would not normally be for loan. 
Such a library shares characteristics with the specialist 

The characteristics of libraries vary according to type, but 
there are overlaps in provision. For example, virtual 
libraries often exist with traditional ones, and material of 
national importance may, for historical reasons, be housed 
in a central public library. Also, special libraries may be 
annexes to public or academic libraries as in, for instance, 
the Ruslcin Library at the University of Lancaster. 


Bertolucci, C. (2004). Cave of knowledge. Architectural Review 
January, p. 22. 

Fletcher, W. I. (1894). Public Libraries in America. Boston, p. 12. 
Graham, C. (1998). Libraries in history. Architectureal Review 
June, pp. 12— 1 A. 

Hall, P. (1998). Cities in Civilization. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 
pp. 506-507. 

Latimer, K. and Niegaard, H. (2007). IFLA library building 
guidelines: developments and reflections. KG Saur. 31. 
Markus, T. (1993). Buildings and Power: Freedom and Control in 
the Origin of Modem Building Types. Routledge. 

Pevsner, N. (1976). A History of Building Types. Thames and 
Hudson, p. 105. 

Roche, D. (1979). Urban Reading Habits during the French 
Enlightenment. British Journal of 18th Century Studies, 2, p. 
141 . (I am indebted to Professor Markus for drawing this to my 

Whittick, A. (1953). European Architecture in the 20th Century 
1924—1933. Vol. 2. Crosby Lockwood and Son Ltd. p. 20. 


Part 2 

Planning the library 

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Location and site factors 

Urban design 

The public library needs to be well connected to civic life 
and the academic library located at the centre of the college 
or university. Good access to pedestrian flows and public 
transport is essential, as is the ability to service libraries 
with their ever-evolving collections and needs. Hence, 
there will normally be a public front and a service rear or 
undercroft. However, the public entrance is not normally 
the library door but a gathering space immediately outside 
it. This should be designed with the characteristics of 
a public square with attention to landscape design, public 
comfort (i.e. seats) and community or personal safety. The 
library ‘square’ is where users will meet, escape from the 
confines of the library to reflect on the material, take short 
breaks to eat sandwiches or visit local cafes or other cul- 
tural facilities, and engage in the ambiance of the public 
realm. Aristotle refined the city as ‘a collection of buildings 
where men live a common life for a noble end’ and no 
building embodies this ideal better than the public library. 

The external library space should be free of cars although 
public modes of transport can (and often should) pass 
nearby. There also needs to be provision for disabled access 
and facilities for the storage of bicycles. Hence, a level 
access is preferable and ramps essential where changes of 
level are inevitable. The public space alongside the library 
entrance provides an opportunity for the building to make 
a statement and this in turn can help signal the significance 
of the library. It also provides the chance to incorporate 
sculpture or other forms of public art into the city — some of 
which may contain text references to the library collection. 

With university libraries the building needs to be centrally 
placed on the campus and located where 24-hour surveillance 
is possible. There is often a linear plaza at the centre of campus 
where other academic institutions are located, such as senate 
house, refectory, gymnasium and registry. This provides an 
opportunity for the formation of a student-centred academic 
mall which ties together the key shared facilities with links to 
the separate faculty buildings further afield. Hence, one role of 
the academic library is to define the centre of the campus both 
spatially and in terms of building hierarchy. 

The flows from the external public space to the main 
building entrance are more clearly defined if attention is 

paid to urban design at the briefing stage. The choice of site 
often dictates external relationships. Proximity to public 
transport and existing pedestrian or cycle flows is imper- 
ative. There are parallel flows too which need to be con- 
sidered such as the delivery of books, newspapers, 
furniture and access for staff. The service entrance needs to 
have good road access and a limited amount of delivery 
and parking space. Increasingly, information is electroni- 
cally delivered using wire or wireless technology and this 
eases the demand upon physical service areas. However, 
delivery and storage of the library material is a major 
consideration at the site planning level. 

To fulfil its duty in the widest sense the library needs to 
be well connected to civic life. This means good access to 
public as well as private modes of transport with facilities 
provided for library users who arrive on bicycle or are 
disabled in any way. Since most visiting the library will 
arrive on foot, the needs of pedestrians must take priority. 

Not all sites provide ideal conditions for access, but too 
often the functional needs of book delivery or emergency 
vehicle access take priority. Readers’ needs should take 

Principal site 
planning considerations 

Civic presence 

Public access 

Service access 

Urban design 

Issues to consider 

• Relationship to other 
public buildings 

• Visible presence 

• Access to public 

• Disabled access 

• Access to road 

• Delivery and storage 

• External public 
gathering space 

• Safe, secure 
and legible routes 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

precedent over those of the books (except where rare or 
fragile material is involved) and this alters the balance of 
convenience between public perceptions and library man- 
agement ones. A successful library is one which is con- 
veniently accessed via attractive and safe urban spaces, and 
where there are areas to pause and reflect upon the material 
read. Few modern libraries do this though they are well 
serviced by road, giving the superficial impression of 
functional efficiency. 

Libraries are part of the civic infrastructure of towns. The 
library has a key role to play in the realization of the 
‘common life’ — socially, economically and culturally. 
Placed in this context, the library becomes part of the web of 
civic facilities embracing education, art, administration, 
justice and sport. In many ancient and modem towns, 
a central meeting place contains a grouping of public 
buildings forming an interconnecting network of civic fa- 
cilities. The library is an important element in the ensemble 
but because it addresses access to knowledge and wisdom, its 
natural neighbours are the art gallery, college and town hall. 

If the library is part of the civic realm, it is important to 
differentiate between public and market functions. Most 
towns have a clearly defined civic centre around which 
public functions are grouped, and a retail centre for trade and 
commerce. Although the two realms connect, the library 
belongs to the former. This is the pattern found in most 
towns up to the twentieth century, though many recent li- 
braries have abandoned the principles of civic proximity for 
the convenience of vehicle access. The expression of a civic 
place containing the library as functional and formal anchor 
is best expressed in the American Plaza of the late nine- 
teenth century. Here, under the enlightened patronage of 

Andrew Carnegie, the new libraries of cities such as Boston 
and Buffalo were developed alongside art galleries and town 
halls to form cultural and administrative foci embodying the 
spirit of accessibility and democracy. 

A good location is one, therefore, which integrates the 
library into the civic and cultural life of the town. A poor one 
is where the library is isolated physically and psychologi- 
cally. The design of the library needs to promote, not hinder, 
linkage with space, which is the medium of connectivity 
expressed through both interior and exterior volumes. 
People movement through space is more important than 
vehicle movement, even if those vehicles are providing 
deliveries to the library. A good location is one which gives 
priority to the library user, not to the convenience of library 
staff; and to the reader rather than the book. 

The library necessarily sits between two strong currents: 
that of the user accessing the material and that of the staff, 
library systems and delivery vehicles which service the col- 
lection. Since the library reader may well wish to visit other 
civic facilities (such as the town hall and gallery) as well as 
borrow a book, there are obvious connections to establish. 
Likewise, for the library to function effectively it needs ready 
access to roads for service and emergency purposes. But the 
library should not be located simply because of the servicing 
or functional argument. To do so would be to scatter indis- 
criminately the library and other public buildings about the 
town, thereby undermining any sense of centre. This is true of 
the city library and of the university library where the effect 
of a centre is equally essential. 

Thus the first priority in locating a library is civic. There 
are two main ramifications that follow: the first is a matter of 
effect and grouping at the level of urban design, especially 

The new Norwich Public 
Library is served by 
attractive pedestrian 
routes and approached 
by an urban square. 
(Tom Miller) 


Location and site factors 

The Idea Store in Whitechapel, London is designed to 
be part of local street culture. (Brian Edwards) 

that of external space planning. Second, there should be 
ready access to railway and bus station with ramps— not stairs 
— to provide ease of movement for disabled users and those 

with children in prams. The route to the library should be 
clear, safe and attractive to use. Where there is vehicle access 
to cross, the road user should be subservient to the pedestrian. 
As the library is likely to be used in the evening, the design of 
access paths and squares should encourage safety and secu- 
rity by ensuring a high level of use (by employing mixed 
land-use development around the library) and by employing 
natural and closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance in 
conjunction with high levels of lighting. 

The routes to the library need to offer legibility and the 
library itself should have a high degree of visibility. The 
hierarchy of function implicit in the library as a building 
type should be expressed in the use of distinctive archi- 
tectural form. The various routes to the library, whether on 
foot or by vehicle, should present an imageable sequence 
which culminates in a memorable library. The question of 
access, therefore, needs to address the psychology of place 
as well as its functionality. 

So far the emphasis has been upon the characteristics of 
good location — particularly from an urban design point of 
view. Bad locations are ones where, no matter how well the 
library is designed, the building cannot be stitched into the 
infrastructure of the civic realm. This may be because of 
distance from the urban centre, because of the effect of 
barrier buildings or roads, or because the brief gives undue 
priority to functional needs. The aesthetic or formal vo- 
cabulary of the library should balance the demands of 
utility or, put another way, the long-term value of the li- 
brary in terms of achieving Aristotle’s ‘common good’ 
needs to take priority at the level of civic design. 

As a practical measure, it is important to plan libraries so 
that they do not open directly onto busy streets at their front 
or flanks. The reader does not want to have to rush directly 

Large civic libraries, 
as seen here in 
Copenhagen, need 
space outside for people 
and bicycles. (Brian 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

into a busy thoroughfare after the quiet refuge of a library. 
Busy streets directly abutting the library pose considerable 
problems of interior noise as well as adding to the disori- 
entation of the reader. Far better to place the library in 
a square or have a recessed ‘place’ at the entrance where 
readers can meet friends and gather their thoughts before 
confronting the bustle of modern urban life. A good example 
of this approach is the new British Library in London with its 
recessed square behind the busy Euston Road. Another is the 
new Peckham Library in South London by architects Alsop 
and Stormer, which is set within the newly created Peckham 
Square — intended to act as a catalyst of urban regeneration 
and refuge from congested arterial roads. 

Few librarians or architects have the option of choosing 
their site. Frequently the location is decided by the time the 
design team arrives. However, it is still possible to turn 
a poor location into an acceptable design by addressing 
some of the points above. For instance, it may be possible 
to link the library directly into a bus or railway station (to 
avoid tortuous routes later), to form a shared piazza with an 
adjoining building placed at right angles to a busy road, to 
bridge across a ring road with a high-level entrance away 
from traffic noise, or to give the library a leafy oasis at the 

Peckham Public Library forms a cultural space at its 
entrance designed for impromptu civic events. (Brian 

centre (a kind of refuge for reflection as at the Bibliotheque 
Nationale in Paris). 

It is also worth remembering that the effect of well- 
designed public buildings is lost if they are placed in or- 
dinary streets. What they need for totality of effect is 
a distinctive site. Part of the architect’s duty is to turn an 
average site into a memorable place through the process of 
design. However, not all locations have the potential to 
achieve this transformation. This is why design guidance is 
needed right at the beginning of a project and before the 
architectural team is appointed. 

The totality of effect is also dependent upon neighbours. 
Some locations offer advantageous adjoining buildings, 
others a disadvantaging background. As a general rule, the 
library requires contrast from a domestic or mundane 
physical context and harmony, but stylistic differentiation 
from a civic background. Where the site is surrounded by 
poor quality and under-scaled buildings (such as ware- 
houses, car showrooms and business premises) the library 
building can lift the area aesthetically and enhance its 
status culturally. The design here needs to have measured 
contrast. Where on the other hand the library is located 
alongside neighbours of similar civic status, there is the 
opportunity to enhance the group effect. Here the library 
should not contrast in size, material or scale, but add to the 
ensemble. It does, however, need to read as a library (and 
not an art gallery) so differentiation based upon function- 
ality is an essential element of architectural design. 

The library of a town is part of the cultural quarter not the 
commercial quarter. On the university campus it is an ele- 
ment of the central learning environment not the peripheral 
research park. Location is essential if the right connections 
are to be made. It may be more convenient or cheaper to find 
a site away from the centre, but to build a library there would 
be to reduce its value to the community (civic or academic). 
Since libraries are one of the longest surviving building 

St George’s Library in Sheffield, designed by Building 
Design Partnership, is a useful symbol of 
regeneration. (Roy Wooding/ICS) 


Location and site factors 

types, it is important that the ‘big picture’ is considered at the 
outset— the library as cultural capital as against building cost. 

The library is not a static building type. More than 
most, the library is subject to considerable pressure for 
change — from innovations in information technology, the 
growth of knowledge with an ever-increasing volume of 
books and journals, and in the move from a manufacturing 
to service economy with its emphasis upon education. A 
successful library is one which is able to grow externally 
and adapt internally. A good location is one, therefore, 
which provides the space for change. However, ultimate 
change is destructive of civic and architectural values. A 
balance is needed between permanence of form with at- 
tendant cultural value attached to fabric, and flexibility of 
operation. It is important that the library takes its place 
amongst the community of public buildings and has 
a character which is recognizably that of a library (so that 
meaning can mature through association), yet is able to 
grow and respond to programmatic changes. A good site 
is one therefore which provides some space for growth — 
either outwardly or upwardly. If total flexibility and 
extendibility are required, however, this will be at the 
expense of urban design. It is better to allow for limited 
physical growth (say 20%), which can occur over one or 
two generations with substantial growth accommodated 
by new satellite buildings. This is the pattern adopted at 

Hierarchy of deliveries at a typical library 



By second 

Electronic mail 

Telephone calls 

By hour 



By day 


Inter-library loans 

By week 


Popular journals 

By month 

Reference journals 
Government publications 

By year 

Special collections 
Furniture and equipment 

the National Library of Scotland where a new annex 
nearly as large as the original building has been 
constructed a mile away. This too is how many university 
libraries expand, taking advantage of separate faculty 
libraries to accommodate growth. 

Libraries are normally free-standing buildings with space around for outward growth. Sussex University, master- 
planned in 1958 by Basil Spence. (Feilden and Mawson) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Conceptual diagram of the relationship 
of library to civic functions. (Brian 

Issues of access for people and books 

The visit an individual makes to a library may be the sole 
purpose of the journey, but people often combine their 
visit with other activities. How they travel to the library is 
thus a consideration in planning the location and ease of 
access to its entrance. The vicinity outside the library can 
become an obstacle course if attention is not paid to 
where people can leave bicycles or baby buggies. The 
popularity of travel by bicycle in specific countries such 
as Sweden and China and, in the UK, by users of aca- 
demic libraries, means that people will expect places to 
leave their bikes securely. Bike parks should therefore be 
a feature of planning (as seen outside the new public li- 
brary in Malmo, Sweden), as should dog rails. Baby 
buggies are a common feature in public libraries and, if 
the building interior is not parent-friendly, storage will be 
required to prevent prams becoming an obstacle for other 
users and a potential safety risk. However, for most li- 
brary locations users will arrive at the door on foot and 
carrying something — often the accoutrements of study or 

Storage is needed at the library entrance for prams, coats 
and shopping. It normally takes the form of lockers for 
small items and secure rooms for larger ones. Public stor- 
age facilities help reduce the risk of theft of library prop- 
erty by placing bags outside the book and journal areas. 

The entrance to the building should either be central or in 
an obvious relation to other public buildings nearby. It 
should be placed to take account of traffic (pedestrian or 
vehicular). Most libraries will be large enough to make 
locating the entrance an issue for the first time user. Easily 
interpreted visual clues should be provided from a variety of 

approaches, including car or bike parks, bus and train 
stations and other major facilities. The entrance itself should 
be an attractive feature but easily negotiated. It is necessary 
for the entrance to be accessed via a ramp in instances where 
steps are featured. In common with many civic buildings, it 
is usual for libraries to have only one public entrance/exit. 
This provides for the security requirement by cutting down 
the number of exits where checks have to be carried out. 
Entrance in some libraries has to be controlled, i.e. granted 
to bona fide members only. Card entry systems are in- 
creasingly common, with a reception function to provide 
access to non-members. A growing number of libraries offer 
24-hour access. All day and all night opening puts particular 
stress on staffing systems and security. Controlled access 
and CCTV within the library are a common response to 
protect both the collection and the staff. 

Library users will normally be carrying books or other 
materials, making mechanically operated doors essential. 
Automatic doors or electric revolving doors are appreci- 
ated by users (especially those with some form of physical 
impairment). Doors that close after use are necessary to 
prevent heat loss or weather ingress. The size, design and 
position of doors helps signal the presence of the public 
entrance to the library as against the staff entrance. Out of 
hours ‘book-drops’ are a facility which needs to be located 
in a convenient external location, but also one which has an 
internal relationship with the main circulation desk. 

Internal entrances/exits 

Libraries are multifunctional and sophisticated buildings 
which often challenge the first time user. Library users are 
often required to anticipate their needs in advance of entry. 


Location and site factors 

Multi-modal access to 
Bournemouth Library. 
Design by Building 
Design Partnership. 

External seating at San Francisco Public Library. 
(Brian Edwards) 

The library entrance is also a place to meet. Temasek 
Polytechnic, Singapore. (Michael Wilford and 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 



— staff entrance 


public entrance and foyer 

Conceptual diagram of entrances. (Brian Edwards) 

It is essential that, once inside, users are allowed a place for 
some reflection or overview of the internal layout. From 
a central vantage point, the user should be able to assess the 
physical arrangement of facilities in consultation with an 
information board, electronic noticeboard, printed material 
or other guide. Some users will not have the confidence to 
approach personnel at this stage of their investigation, but 
a reception desk in the entrance area allows for face-to-face 
consultation. This is often repeated on all the floors of the 
library. It is necessary for some commonality of layout to 
be introduced alongside any variations of service provided 
in specific locations within the building. 

Staff access 

It is important to include a separate staff entrance, espe- 
cially where opening hours are not concomitant with 
working hours. In any library, there are a number of daily 
routines, including cleaning, which need to be undertaken 
before or after the public areas are open. Staff entrances 
avoid a library seemingly admitting some people (staff) 

Protected entrances at Seattle Public Library provide 
a sheltered route for users. (Brian Edwards) 

whilst others (users) are queuing. The location and design 
of the staff entrance should not lead to ambiguity over the 
status of private and public gateways into the building. 

Similarly, at the end of the day, locking the public en- 
trance/exit is made easier if the staff can then leave by 
a separate door. It should be remembered that most library 
employees are female, and libraries stay open until late 
evening. Exits for staff should therefore give them access 
into well-lit, public spaces and not into alleys, cul-de-sacs 
or less busy areas of the locality. 

Conceptual diagram of 
library deliveries. (Brian 

Main deliveries for library stock 

newspapers books Journals 

main deliveries caterina 

cleaning - 

for servicing 


- equipment 

- paper 

- electronic 

main deliveries 
for library 




Location and site factors 

The elevated student entrance to the Saltire Centre at 
Glasgow Caledonia University signals the distinction 
between public and private access to the library. 
(Brian Edwards) 

Vertical and horizontal movement from the entrance or 
towards the exit should be allowed by placing lifts, stair- 
ways and other routes in a pattern of logical and functional 

relationships. There are well-defined patterns of interrela- 
tional usage for the public use of facilities (see Chapter 4). 
Staff communications are different and are best accom- 
modated separately. 

Service access and deliveries 

There is a constant delivery schedule in all libraries which 
includes post deliveries, stationery requirements, paper for 
photocopiers, daily newspapers and books, journals and 
pre-requisites for the cloakrooms, kitchens and catering. 
This necessitates access to the building for vans and trucks, 
as well as internal delivery methods within large organi- 
zations with centrally provided services such as postal 

Once inside the building, the goods need to be directed 
to the appropriate floor, area or level. Goods entrances 
must be serviced by doors that do not conflict with the 
users’ needs, for example to avoid the need to manoeuvre 
trolleys or delivery carts through an area where people are 
queuing for book issuing or photocopying. In some li- 
braries, postal deliveries include a large number of books 
and items obtained through the interlibrary loan service. 
Sorting areas have to be provided and, in large de- 
partments, space may need to be dedicated to service 
functions like the periodicals or interlibrary loan 

The integration of movement within a building should 
enable all functions to operate without conflicting 
demands on space, lifts or stairs. Just like finding the 
library within the city, getting around library buildings 
should be natural and self-instructing. The principles of 
the self-instructing library and how this is translated into 
design are a feature of the public library in Malmo, 
Sweden (see Chapter 10). 


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Planning the library 

Achieving design quality in libraries 

The value of design is often overlooked by those who 
procure library buildings and draw up the brief. Yet good 
design and comfortable environmental conditions can 
make a big difference to the perception of the building and, 
by extension, to the organization which commissioned it 
whether it be a local council (public library), a national 
government (national library) or a university (academic 
library). Excellence in design is not, however, easy to 
measure especially in advance of construction. According 
to CABE, good design is ‘design that is fit for purpose, 
sustainable, efficient, coherent, responsive to context, good 
looking and a clear expression of the requirements of the 
brief (CABE, 2006). Moreover, it is now widely accepted 
that the quality of design affects the attitudes and behaviour 
of library users. There are some pointers which can be 
employed such as: 

• is there a ‘wow’ factor in the overall design and in the 
interior spaces? 

• does the building connect well with neighbours? 

• is the library well lit and naturally ventilated? 

• has acoustic quality of the different spaces been 

• have potential adverse conditions such as solar glare, 
overshadowing and traffic noise been resolved? 

• are there views out onto attractive areas? 

• are there views within the building which promote use 
legibility and aid navigation through complex facilities? 

In the competitive world of higher education, the impres- 
sions gained of university facilities are important to both 
students and their parents. They can affect the choice made 
between different colleges or universities (CABE, 2005). 
Similarly, the quality of design in the public realm in civic 
buildings such as libraries affects the choices made by 
people in both the facilities they use and more widely in 
where they choose to live. 

Increasingly, there is an expectation that sunlight, fresh 
air and operable windows will be provided in all or part of 
the library. This may be just on the top floor where the cafe 
is provided, or in a central atrium, or in study rooms around 

the edge. Either way, a number of surveys of users have 
highlighted the importance they attach to natural condi- 
tions and there is some anecdotal evidence that this also 
affects their ability to concentrate. 

Public buildings and those on campuses are also 
expected to display best practice in the area of sustainable 
design. This is often incorporated into the brief and where 
it is not, architects and engineers have a duty to seek to 
reduce the carbon footprint of their designs. The role of the 
library here is important as it stands for knowledge dis- 
semination and intellectual discovery — and nowhere is this 
more pertinent today than in the arena of global warming 
and sustainability. It is no accident that many recent public 
libraries, such as the one in Brighton designed by Bennetts 
Associates, have innovated in the area of energy efficiency. 
Here the green technologies have been visibly displayed in 
order for the building to carry the message of sustainable 
design and thereby teach through the building rather than 
just the books. This issue of wider citizenship learning is 
a key characteristic of library buildings whether in towns or 
on university campuses. 

Establishing the brief 

Much useful information can be found in the literature of 
library planning which will assist those beginning to draw 
up a design specification for the first time. This is true for 
architects as well as for library staff. However, nothing that 
is written or read can fully prepare anyone for the experi- 
ence of seeing a building arise from plans. This chapter 
derives from direct experience of contemporary projects in 
addition to the wisdom of those who have created library 
buildings elsewhere. 

Libraries have historically illustrated the highest cul- 
tural values of society. The building of a new library will 
not be a singular decision — it will be the result of com- 
mittees and policies. All the considerations which lead to 
a project need to be retained as information for the archi- 
tect’s brief. The priorities for the building should be listed 
and assessed before agreement is reached to include or 
dismiss features which accommodate them. This is an in- 
tellectual exercise which can become influenced by 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

personal crusades. It is important that the process of de- 
termining priorities is managed by those who embrace 
a vision that accommodates democratic, social and tech- 
nological innovations. Teamwork is an essential charac- 
teristic of the successful brief. 

Visions give a building integrity and are critical to un- 
derstanding purpose and function. Without a shared vision, 
the concept can become vulnerable to abuse and even 
become disregarded. Any successful building will, there- 
fore, be created by a team of people who have a common 
understanding of what is to be achieved and what is to be 

The visions realized in library buildings stem from dis- 
parate sources. The commissioning body or authority will 
have ideas and influence the final outcome. The artistic in- 
terpretation of architectural principles and professional ser- 
vice requirements may lead and dominate. The practical 
elements of library management will appear to direct the 
interior layouts. All parties mentioned so far will have a par- 
ticular view of the relationship of the building to its com- 
munity and within the wider society in which it is to exist. 

It is also important to distinguish in the brief between 
aspirational and functional need. For instance, the library 
could be seen as a gateway to knowledge rather than 
a collection of purposeful rooms. It could be a centre for 
information or technology transfer as against a warehouse 
for public lending books. Too few briefs address the big 
question, preferring instead to list accommodation as if 
a schedule of rooms were sufficient to guide the designer. 
A good brief has good ideas, bad briefs none at all. 

General considerations and assessment 
of needs 

It is important that a vision should be created and applied to 
all the considerations given above. There must be room for 
imagination and creativity in the practical areas of layout 



Design Team 



Library Staff 

Key influences upon library brief. (Brian Edwards) 

and servicing as well as in the design. Where harmony can 
be achieved between architect and librarian, the resulting 
building is likely to have a flow and charm which is felt by 
all users. If such harmony is not forthcoming, the building 
will retain harsh juxtapositions. Users will find conflicting 
messages which deny them any understanding of how the 
building is to work. Harmony is the result of dialogue 
between those who commission, design and ultimately use 
the library. 

First stages in planning 

Assessments of current and projected user needs provide 
vital information to the architect. Until such information is 
received, the design cannot begin. Needs should be 
analysed by library staff in terms of current service de- 
livery and provision of facility. The anticipated growth or 
atrophy of users and services must be assessed and 
presented within the brief. For public libraries, data are 
available from sources such as population statistics for the 
town or region. Student numbers can be obtained from the 
annual plans of the governing body or the educational 
authority. The membership services department of a pro- 
fessional body or specialist organization can provide data 
for specialist libraries. 

The way in which particular users retrieve and exploit 
information is important to planning services. Library staff 
will need to understand how their users approach in- 
formation and plan for provision that responds positively to 
the nature of the enquiry. Despite the growth in Internet or 
web-based information, library buildings have not di- 
minished in importance. The vast amount of information 
which is publicly available has led to an increased 


Changing relationship between reading room and 
book stack areas in twentieth century libraries. 
(Brian Edwards) 


Planning the library 

dependence on the authoritative order of the library cata- 
logue and classification scheme. Thus, services which 
allow free searching in a controlled environment are 
proving ever popular. Space and equipment must provide 
for all types of information retrieval. 

Internal space requirements should be formulated using 
the latest data and statistical information. Service de- 
scriptions of current and projected demand can be pro- 
duced in terms which allow architectural interpretation. As 
the information which libraries contain become more vir- 
tual, the provision of services to those distant to the 
building also require consideration. Services to those 
present in the immediate community may be easier to 
assess. It is also important to discover what is required to 
make a non-user find the library an essential part of their 
work or leisure. Information from assessments carried out 
as part of a library’s regular user surveys will provide 
valuable planning evidence. 

As well as continuing what is currently done, it is just as 
important to do what is not done but ought to be. Librarians 
and architects will use their professional networks to un- 
derstand the contemporary challenges to their respective 
professions. There is a responsibility on both to engage 
with new ideas. The last decade of the twentieth century 
was marked by a significant number of examples of in- 
novative library building — all pointing to provision in the 
twenty-first century. Web-based information pages of 
companies, organizations and universities offer a rich 

resource for anyone planning new library buildings. Virtual 
visits to websites, followed up by actual visits to the most 
promising sources, have led to the creation of some stim- 
ulating library environments. 

Technical criteria 

Standards and guidelines for the particular type of library 
will inform the final design. Besides the regulations for 
public buildings that will necessarily be followed by the 
architect, the library and information profession offers 
advice on standards for library service provision for dif- 
ferent types of library. In the UK, the Library Association’s 
Colleges of Further and Higher Education Group produces 
guidelines based on actual provision for the university 
sector. The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians 
and the Law Society both contribute to standards for law 
libraries. These and other publications provide the useful 
criteria, but it is also recognized that for many projects the 
ideal is rarely attainable. 

For the librarian, familiarity with relevant technical 
criteria may be all that is required. The architect’s team 
will be far more involved with ensuring that specifications 
for heating, lighting, ventilation and air-conditioning are 
met. This will involve consultation over areas of law 
(health and safety), relevant local conditions (risk assess- 
ments) and meeting current environmental standards (eco- 





Key A 

^ Book-stack areas 6 

, C 

| | Reading areas D 



Stockholm Public Library 
Library of Congress, Washington 
Srt Lanka National Library 
Library of the Federal Technical 
University, Zurich 
Iowa State University Library 
Bibliothdque Nationale, Paris 

Different patterns of reading area and book-stack 
areas in the twentieth century libraries. 

(Brian Edwards) 

Accommodating change 

Changes in the parent organization’s environment may 
inform the nature as well as the location of the building 
provided. For example, as shopping spreads to the outer 
perimeter of towns, so the location of community libraries 
needs to reflect that move. Contemporary universities are 
concentrating on student learning centres rather than 
teaching spaces, and so libraries need to provide learning 
environments in the widest sense. The challenge to library 
management is to retain traditional strengths whilst pro- 
viding new equipment and spaces that enhance the users’ 
perception of the value of the library. 

Forming the teams 


The exact nature of any commissioning team will depend 
upon the method chosen to procure a plan. If the library is 
part of a wider infrastructure of buildings, such as within 
a university or town centre, then plans will need to include 
a holistic approach to the site. Some authorities choose 
to employ an architectural competition for a new library 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

design, such as in Paris for the new Bibliotheque Nationale. 
This grand project of the late twentieth century was final- 
ized in an English versus French selection by President 
Mitterand. The architect Dominic Perrault was appointed 
in 1989, work commenced in 1990 and 1997 saw the first 
full year of operation. Design competitions can be espe- 
cially useful when a prestigious library is under 

In some instances, commissioning authorities have very 
particular ideas which they wish to see implemented. These 
can take decades to implement — as in the case of the 
British Library. Originally commissioned in 1962, the ar- 
chitect Colin St John Wilson waited until 8 July 1999 
before the final reading room was opened. Most teams will 
retain a more dynamic momentum over the period between 
idea and inception, and will work expediently to see their 
visions realized. Overlong commissioning and project 
delay undermine team spirit and lead to an inferior design. 


The feasibility or visionary documents that represent the 
thinking behind a project do not always indicate the make- 
up of the teams who realize them. There can be no 
blueprint for an ideal planning or implementation team. 
Projects will take on an identity as they progress and wise 
leadership allows for timely contributions from those best 
placed to make them. Communication between project 
team members is the most critical feature which will affect 
eventual success. The Royal Institute of British Architects 
(RIBA) Plan of Work provides a useful template of the 
commissioning and planning stages of a typical project. 

Major players 

All projects will require an architect and a librarian: their 
functions are interrelated. The architect to design and plan, 
to work within the brief, to create and inspire: the librarian 
to advise, analyse and specify the requirements of the 
building. Both are charged with the need to discuss and 
refine ideas and to evolve the practical requirements of the 
vision. The nature of building projects is such that the ar- 
chitect will normally emerge as the leader of the planning 
team. The architectural firm selected will arrange for 
a dedicated person to undertake liaison with the librarian. 

Other contributors 

Other significant roles are required in order for projects to 
evolve into reality. A major one is that of financial over- 
view; this is normally undertaken by the parent organiza- 
tion. The architect will appoint a quantity surveyor to liaise 
with the client’s cost consultant and both will normally be 
part of the planning team. Most large organizations (e.g. 

public library authorities and universities) will have estate 
managers. Staff from these departments will be the direct 
‘client’ and will appoint a ‘clerk of works’. During the 
building work, these people become invaluable as negoti- 
ators between the eventual occupants, the building firms 
and other contractors. The RIBA Plan of Work sets out 
clearly the phasing of operations, client input at different 
stages and the role of key players (clerk of works, quantity 
surveyor) for those in the UK. 

Specific projects may need specialist advice at various 
times during the planning or building processes. These will 
vary from geological expertise in areas where land is vol- 
atile (earthquake or volcanic activity) to pollution experts 
and maybe industrial archaeologists for brownfield sites. 
There will also be experts in health and safety, IT systems, 
security advisors and many others whose expertise will 
need to be embraced. 

Representatives of the user community 

Some planning teams allow the users of a new library to be 
represented. Within universities, it is common for projects 
to be discussed within the academic community via bodies 
such as the senate. Contributions may be sought at an early 
stage and be obtained through focus groups or other such 
forums. It is important that the views of those who are 
likely to use the library (local residents, academics, re- 
searchers, students) have a direct input into the brief 
preparation and planning process. 

Managing the process 

Instrumental to the effectiveness of the planning team is the 
person acting as chairperson. Objectivity and un- 
derstanding are the most essential qualities for this posi- 
tion. Normally, such a person is likely to be the chief 

Issues to address in the early stage include: 

• initial planning 

• involvement of others 

• consultation 

• defining and refining 

• ‘ownership’ 

• staff involvement 

• experiences and innovation. 

Issues to address in the middle stage include: 

• meeting the pressure of change 

• incorporating the views of users 

• technology 

• staff 

• organizations 

• transitional states. 


Planning the library 

Issues to address at detailed implementation include: 

• agreeing performance targets (including architectural 

• specifications and generalizations 

• timetables for occupation 

• managing diverse expectations 

• understanding the contracting process 

• knowing what will cost money and time (especially late 
alteration to the brief or design). 

Design criteria for libraries - a generic list 

The architect of several new libraries in the UK, Harry 
Faulkner-Brown, listed 10 design criteria for successful 
libraries (Faulkner-Brown, 1987). These were that libraries 
should be: 

• flexible 

• compact 

• accessible 

• extendible 

• varied 

• organized 

• comfortable 

• constant internal environment 

• secure 

• economic. 

To this list one may add: 

• sustainable 

• uplifting to the spirit. 

The benefits of this list are rather obvious but too rarely 
adopted in their entirety. Flexibility is often compromised 
by poor initial design or subsequent changes to building 
fabric. Compactness is sacrificed by excessive pursuit of 
functional zoning where each library activity has its own 
space. Compact buildings require close connection and 
overlapping functions. Accessibility is not always good for 
all, especially the disabled or those with small children. An 
accessible library is also one which has readily perceived 
entrances and routes. 

Extendibility can be limited by the nature of the site 
and the choice of building location within the site. An 
extendible library must have perimeter space for growth 
and a design strategy that recognizes and orders sub- 
sequent expansion. As noted by Faulkner-Brown (1987), 
varied libraries allow the provision of freedom of choice 
for readers, managers and those intent upon exploiting 
different information technologies. Since libraries — es- 
pecially academic ones — undergo waves of management 
change, a variety of types of accommodation at the 
outset is important. Organized libraries offer an effective 
interface between readers and books, but a plan which 

starts life by being well organized can be compromised 
by the inevitable complexity of changes over time. Since 
libraries are amongst the longest lived of mankind’s 
built artefacts, the passage of time stresses the most 
organized of systems. 

Comfortable libraries tend to be well-used ones, but 
excessive comfort can lead to their being used as lounges 
with readers taking periodic naps. A constant internal en- 
vironment is important for the preservation of library ma- 
terial — a point noted by Faulkner-Brown — but a balance 
has to be struck between naturally ventilated libraries with 
fresh air and sunshine, and air-conditioned ones which, 
though they control temperature and humidity well, can 
lead to drowsy conditions for readers. 

Security of libraries is essential to avoid the theft of 
books (a point obviously more acute in libraries with 
special collections) but the reader too needs to feel safe. 
Both staff and readers require a secure environment — their 
needs are as important as the study material. An economic 
library is one which is efficiently built, maintained and 
operated; this involves finance, staff and resource con- 
sumption. Since libraries are long-lived buildings, attention 
to quality of materials, staff morale, reader access and 
community well-being is important. 

To Faulkner-Brown’ s comprehensive list, one should 
add two further criteria. First, that the library should be 
sustainable in the use of resources consumed in its con- 
struction and operation. It is no longer sufficient to just 
think in terms of being efficient or low cost; the sustainable 
library may entail slightly higher initial investment in order 
to reduce running costs or to create more satisfying con- 
ditions for staff and readers. The sustainable library will be 
of low-energy design (this means shallow not deep plan), 
use natural materials in construction and finishes, conserve 
water and avoid car-based travel (see pages xx — xx). Few 
modern libraries have addressed the agenda of sustain- 
ability though some have made brave attempts. A good 
example is the naturally ventilated low-energy Queens 
Library at Anglia Polytechnic University, which sub- 
stantially avoids air-conditioning. 

The other additional criterion is the need for the library 
to uplift the spirit. As a cultural anchor the library, like the 
art gallery or stadium, is a significant expression of civi- 
lized values. The library not only provides access to books; 
its role is also that of celebrating the written word (and 
increasingly the electronic one). Whether it is an academic 
library, a national library or a small town library, archi- 
tectural design must provide meaningful form as well as 
functional space. The reader needs to have an ‘experience’ 
which marks the passage of reading time or which gives 
dignity, pleasure or stimulation to a visit to the library. Too 
few libraries of the past generation can be said to achieve 
this criterion. 

Such a list begs the question whether all 12 criteria are 
equally important. In a university library, for instance, 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Architecture library at 
the Royal Danish 
Academy of Fine Arts, 
Copenhagen (Andreas 
Trier Morch) 

flexibility may be more important than comfort; in a na- 
tional library, security may be more crucial than economy; 
and in a town library, accessibility may be of greater 
concern than compactness or environmental standards. 
Certainly, judgement is needed and some weighting 
(depending upon circumstances), with the design brief 
itemizing the key criteria. Ultimately the choice and bal- 
ance within the listed criteria are not a question of right or 
wrong, but what is appropriate for the library in question. 
Here political judgement is needed and the skill of the 
designer exploited to achieve a building which is ulti- 
mately valued by the community it serves, and not just by 
library staff. 

An area of frequent conflict is that between security 
and accessibility. A fortress library is hardly an inviting 
one, yet a library designed with the openness of a super- 
market runs the risk of losing a great deal of stock. 
Whereas a branch library with no rare books and limited 
stock can operate a fairly liberal entrance regime, far 
greater security is needed in a major civic or national li- 
brary. An accessible library needs a wide entrance, 
without steps and preferably some seating near the 
threshold. The entrance should be perceived as welcom- 
ing and safe for the reader. For library staff, the ideal 
entrance is overlooked, narrow, controlled by electronic 
tagging devices and monitored by closed circuit television 
(CCTV). In a national library where scarce and valuable 
material is housed, there can be some justification for 
such an entrance, even with (as at the National Library of 
Scotland) mandatory searching of folders and briefcases. 
The concerns of security reach their limit at the National 

Library of Iceland housed at the university in Reykjavik. 
Here the National Collection of Icelandic sagas, ancient 
maps and manuscripts is controlled by a member of staff 
who responds to an entry bell, conducts searches and 
patrols the vault and reading room above against burglary, 
flood or fire. The connecting staircase is protected by 
glass-enclosed walls, which provide visibility at all times. 
Such security measures are only justified in national li- 
braries or where valuable collections occur. Elsewhere 
reader- friendly spaces are needed in order to maximize 
library use. 

Learning from shopping malls 

The traditional library was not always a welcoming 
building. Often the needs of security of the book stock, 
limited opening hours, poor location and excessive 
steps resulted in unpopularity. One has only to compare 
public libraries with retail malls to see how uninviting 
many libraries have become. Typically a shopping 
mall has a level entrance from the street, there is 
a glazed area or atrium running through the centre of the 
complex around which the various shops (often on 
several levels) are located, floors are connected by wide 
escalators, and security is subtle, understated and elec- 
tronic. Although there are limits to the similarities 
between these two building types, the popularity of the 
mall as a place to visit especially for young people 
should influence thinking by those who procure or 
design public libraries. 


Planning the library 

Old and new wings of the Sydney Jones Library at the 
University of Liverpool make a powerful composition. 
Notice the new Library square in the foreground. 
(Peter Durant) 

Norwich Public Library designed by Michael Hopkins 
and Partners is one example where the spirit of the mall has 
been an influence on the building’s architecture. Here 
a mixture of functions from local radio station to small 
museum have been combined with cafes and bookshops 
to form an attractive crescent of activity around the 
library. All of these activities are housed within a large 
glazed atrium-type space, which opens onto the stalls of 
Norwich’s street market. To use the public library is to 
experience civic life in all its attractive complexity. 

By engaging in more of a retail culture, architects can 
use the design of the library to attract users who pre- 
viously were discouraged by the staid overtones of the 
modernist or Victorian library. Certainly the colour- 

banded new libraries such as that in Montreal look su- 
perficially like shopping malls. Another answer is to 
employ proximity to retail malls to ensure the library is 
well-connected to consumer culture. This is the approach 
at Brighton Public Library in the UK and Vancouver 
Public Library in Canada. In both cases the libraries 
were designed as part of larger civic developments and 
integrated spatially and aesthetically with the retail as- 
pects of them. As a result the shopper can include in one 
journey a trip say to Marks and Spencer with the loan of 
a book, a pot of tea, and a scan of the Internet. 

Another answer is to employ ‘library streets’ rather 
than library buildings. Here the idea is to extend from 
a retail mall a separate street or sub-mall devoted largely 
to library activities, or perhaps library and other civic 
functions such as a museum or council shop. The idea of 
a library street allows people to browse without making 
the formal commitment to engage in the library services 
(in the same way that one window-shops). By creating 
permeable and pervasive spaces linked to retail de- 
velopments libraries may be able to attract a new cli- 
entele and expand their visitor numbers. However, one 
problem with the retail mall is its tendency towards 
environmental anonymity — what Marc Auge calls ‘non- 
place’ (Auge, 1985). Being Tost in space’, as com- 
mentators put it, is the opposite of the ideal library 
experience. Unlike shops and department stores, libraries 
need to generate a specific environment: one where the 
character of the building derives from the nature of the 
collection (Eco, 1985). 

Large libraries such as national libraries or the public 
libraries of major cities pose a particular difficulty, not 
unlike major retail parks. They can be massive in scale and 
form a major barrier to urban movement. The answer, as 
with shopping malls, is to draw people inside by forming 

The branch library in the 
small town of Dunsmuir 
in California, built in 
1964, uses materials 
from nearby forests in its 
construction, controls 
glare without loss of 
daylight levels, has its 
own bus stop and set 
down area for staff and 
users, and a simple 
library name sign. (Brian 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 


The library at the Jubilee campus, University 
of Nottingham, is a building to visit in its own right. 
Architect Michael Hopkins and Partners. 

(M Hamilton-Knight) 

social spaces and cross-routes within the centre of the 
building. People should be able to pass through libraries as 
they do retail malls, rather than have to walk around 
a forbidding perimeter wall. As Dominique Perrault (the 
designer of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris) notes, ‘the 
facade of a library should be a filter not a barrier, letting 
light in and views out, and encouraging people to enter’ 
(Arets, 2005). 

A large library is a small city of streets and spaces. 
Joule Library, UMIST, Manchester. Design by Building 
Design Partnership. (BDP) 

A * Open Plan Learning Resource Centre 
B * Banks of computers on decks 
C * Library floors, bookstacks in centre 
D - Fully glazed north fagade 
E - Solar protected south fagade, freely ventilated 

F - Cafe, exhibition area 
G - Entrance into library at central point 
H - Reader carrels at building periphery 
J - Planted shade on south side 
at top K - Sheltered routes to library 

Ideal template for design of academic library. (Brian Edwards) 


Planning the library 

A - Atrium in centre for stairs and lifts. D - Weil identified . sheltered entrance. 

Direct sunlight and natural ventilation. Disabled friendly, pram and bicycle storage. 

Acoustic ceiling and walls. E - Cafe and exhibition space. 

B - Fully glazed north fagade. F - 3 T Resource Centre. 

Reader desks against periphery G - Library floors, bookstack in centre for thermal capacity. 

C - Solar protected south facade. H - Computer terminals in bays around atrium. 

Shaded reader desks against periphery. J - Sheitered routes to library. 

Ideal template for design of public library. (Brian Edwards©) 

Should library space be functional: the need 
for reflection as well as access to knowledge 

Compared to museums and art galleries, few public li- 
braries offer an environment that is deliberately attractive 
or stimulating. Whereas some people visit art galleries just 
for the experience of the building, not many will go out of 
their way to visit a library in a similar fashion. When Frank 
Gehry designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao 
(1998), he did more than create a rational container for 
viewing the exhibits. His approach was to give visitors 
a memorable architectural experience and to provide 
Bilbao with a landmark. Too few libraries are designed in 
a similar spirit, with the result that not many recent 
buildings provide an appeal and friendliness beyond that of 
accessing the collection. 

Such appeal is substantially the challenge of architec- 
tural design. To create a library worth visiting as a building 
in its own right, functional space should not dominate as- 
pirations towards cultural meaning in the broadest sense. 
Space is not only the medium of function or purpose; it is 
also the medium of social value. In a world of rapidly 
expanding knowledge and growing access to it via the 
Internet, the ‘wholeness’ of intellectual endeavour should 

be reflected in the design of libraries. Fragments of 
knowledge, each captured in a book, website or CD-ROM, 
should be subservient to the totality of wisdom. The public 
library is a place where reflection upon the whole should 
take place in parallel with the search for information. Ar- 
chitectural design should, therefore, create less a ‘super- 
market of knowledge shelves’ and more a gallery of 
contemplation or stimulation. It should, if you like, allow 
the reader to set the fragment of information into the 
wholeness of wisdom. 

Within such reflective volumes can exist the ingredients 
of appeal and friendliness. Space, natural light and comfort 
are essential. These are the ‘lounges’ of the library — dis- 
tinct in character from the book stacks that are necessarily 
arranged according to functional rules. In addition, there 
may be other elements of social interaction— perhaps a cafe 
or bookshop. Music and conversation may be permitted, 
with the resulting atmosphere akin to a large city book- 
shop. Thus the library becomes less a homogeneous space 
and more a collection of volumes of slightly different 
function and character. These volumes are zoned not only 
according to the nature of the material — books, journals, 
newspapers, children’s collection, computing, etc. — but as 
a response to changing social or cultural purpose. This is 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Architectural design should help the users navigate 
the levels by providing clues to perception. (BDP) 

the lesson of the public museum and art gallery, which the 
library service has yet to grasp. 

The rebalancing of cultural space and functional space is 
necessary not only to provide areas where the wholeness of 
knowledge can be contemplated, but also to attract new 
client groups. If libraries were more inviting, their appeal 
would increase. Demographic change results not only in 

additional elderly people for whom the library is a valuable 
social magnate, but also creates a more culturally varied 
community. In much of the world, the drift into cities from 
rural areas places a particular responsibility upon the li- 
brary to provide access to information in a building that is 
friendly and appealing. In the developed world, growing 
affluence shifts the emphasis to quality of life issues. Here 
not only is the public library an element in urban com- 
petitiveness, but its design has an important role to play in 
delivering a quality experience. This sense of community 
or public realmness revolves around a handful of building 
types — schools, museums, sports halls, railway stations and 
most importantly libraries. If the library is not designed to 
reinforce and express civic values, then it will fail to fulfil 
its mission in a holistic fashion. 

This appeal to social values should avoid the ‘theme 
parking’ of the library experience. It is desirable to use 
design to make the library more popular and to anchor it 
visually in the perception of a neighbourhood as long as the 
cerebral nature of the library survives. Superficial branding 
and shallow images should not replace what are essentially 
‘deep’ experiences. 

It is in the area of depth that space comes into its own. 
Social values are always expressed in space and the greater 

A - Civic presence on street H - Computer catalogue access and toilets 

B - Gathering square J - Conservation 

C - Spacious entrance with exhibition space K - Storage of research collection 

D - Special collections readily identified L - Amphitheatre for external performance 

E - Auditorium near entrance M - Conference 

F - Library floors by subject N - Energy conscious faqade 

G - Reader spaces against perimeter 

Ideal template for design of national 
library. (Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

the cerebral content, the deeper that space becomes. Li- 
braries, like art galleries, are exercises in ‘deep space’. It is 
only architecture that can give space depth and meaning for 
the users of these public facilities. 

Space, however deep, is perceived differently 
according to the type of library user. For example, the 
librarian sees space as an issue of function, efficiency and 
security. The regular library user sees the space as fa- 
miliar and cherished territory — a refuge perhaps from life 
elsewhere, certainly a place where escape through reading 
is possible. The casual user sees the same space as un- 
familiar volumes to be negotiated in order to gain some 
specific library return. The visitor with no interest in using 
the collection may see the space as pure architectural 
volumes — rooms bathed in light and clad in books. For 
some the library is a refuge, for others a place to gain 
specific information, or a building in which to meet 
friends or a place of work. All these users perceive the 
same space in different ways — this pluralism of experi- 
ence highlights the need to consider the value of com- 
plexity over rigidity. Spatial order may help cement social 
order or reflect the intellectual order of a library collec- 
tion, but in a world of rapid demographic or knowledge 
changes, old orders soon become obsolete. Space has in- 
stead to appeal to the diversity of users, providing legi- 
bility and orientation through the maze of knowledge. It 
has to achieve this efficiently and elegantly whilst en- 
suring that some places exist not just to support func- 
tionality in a mechanistic sense, but also spiritually. 

Within the diversity of users, it is also evident that dif- 
ferent expectations exist between the young and old. 
Whereas the teenager seeks a lively, stimulating and es- 
sentially contemporary library where electronic data access 

is to the fore, the older user seeks a tranquil, comfortable 
book-based experience. Young and old, the two principal 
groups of library users, have their own distinctive per- 
ceptions of architectural value and library character. 
Somehow the library not only has to present the ‘pastness 
of the present’ but the ‘futureness of the present’ in a space 
which shares two contrasting media technologies: the 
printed page and the electronic screen. 

A large library is akin to a small city. The spaces 
should be designed as streets, squares and buildings as 
opposed to corridors, foyers and rooms. The adjustment to 
a city scale has advantages in terms of how areas may be 
managed or designed. For instance, the passage through 
the building with points of distraction, pause or crossing 
becomes similar to the negotiation of urban areas. There 
are places of social intercourse, elements which landmark 
the route, rooms where you can shop or take refreshment, 
seats where the world can be observed, places in the sun 
and others in shade. Big libraries are small cities, not just 
big buildings. 


Arets, W. (2005). Living Library. Prestel. p.172. 

Auge, M. (1995). Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of 
supermodernity. London and New York: Verso Books. 

CABE (2005). Design with Distinction. OPDM, London. 

CABE (2006). Better Public Building. DCMS, London, p. 5. 

Eco, U. (1985). Travels in Hyperreality. Picador, London. 
Faulkner-Brown, H. (1987). ‘The open plan and flexibility’ in 
Anthony Vaughan, International Reader in Management of 
Library Information and Archive Services , UNESCO. 



Space and interior design 

Is a library a ‘place’ or a ‘service’? 

Architects view the library as a building and librarians as 
a service. This paradox touches upon the nature of pro- 
vision within the library and the design of the building 
itself. Not only is the technology of the library currently 
undergoing rapid change, but the relationship in academic 
libraries between teaching and research, and between 
teaching and learning itself, further destabilizes old struc- 
tures. In public libraries where the cutting edge of new 
technology is less evident, libraries too are changing as 
they cater for an ever-ageing population and demands for 
community-based information. Typically the services 
provided by a library are: 

• access and loan of traditional book-based materials 

• access to journals and newspapers 

• use of workstations 

• electronic access to research journals 

• access to the Internet 

• guidance through the information maze by staff 

• community and visitor support. 

These services are provided by a building with a variety of 
spaces tailored to specific needs. In a large library, there 
may be bookshops, exhibition space and a cafe/restaurant — 
adding to the blurring of library functions. The services 
provided affect the nature and dimensions of space on the 
one hand, and staff roles and relationships on the other. 
Space in this sense is not neutral but filled with operational, 
political and management consequences. 

The library as a place may be increasingly altered by 
changes in information technology (IT), expectations of its 
roles in building a community, or as a means of reinforcing 
new modes of service delivery. It is also modified by new 
concepts of 24-hour access. The permanently open library 
(a frequent feature of the academic estate) changes the 
nature and perception of provision. Besides being a build- 
ing where information is held, accessed and exchanged, the 
library becomes a place of refuge or encampment. It is, at 
least for some, an escape into a sane and quiet environment 
— a place to reflect and renew at any time of the day. 

Space stress in libraries 

The growing popularity of libraries, the relative cheapness 
of books and the expansion of IT provision and related 
social areas have stressed many existing libraries. Rooms, 
corridors, stairs, reading areas, stack areas, reference and 
archive areas all find themselves used more intensely than 
in the past. In order to accommodate more space for people 
and their laptops, a greater area of the library is given over 
to casual seating and workstation provision. There are three 
ways in which these stresses are commonly resolved: 
firstly, by building new libraries and either demolishing or 
altering the use of existing ones. Secondly, by extending 
existing libraries, altering internal configurations in the 
process, and, thirdly, by reconfiguring existing libraries 
without physical extension. The latter is often employed as 
a short-term solution to the wider social and technological 
pressures on libraries described elsewhere in this book. 
A recent survey of American libraries found that 76% of 
public libraries had their ability to cater for growing IT 
usage limited by space provision whilst 31% reported that 
the existing infrastructure curtailed routes for computer 
cabling and electrical outlets (American Libraries Associ- 
ation, 2004). 

Where internal modification is employed, it usually 
entails the creation of extra space for IT users at the ex- 
pense of traditional book users. Here the answer employed, 
especially in college and university libraries, is to employ 
compact mobile stacking systems. Effectively, it cuts down 
on the 1 m wide space required between each parallel row 
of book stacks. With mobile stacking systems only one 
corridor of space is needed for up to eight rows of book 
stack — in effect saving 7 m of library provision to use for 
other purposes. This can result in compact shelving sys- 
tems doubling the storage capacity per metre of library 
compared to traditional library book stacks. However, 
compact shelving has two main drawbacks: the weight of 
the compressed stacks can exceed the floor loading ca- 
pacity, and only one reader can browse the stacks at a time. 
So with large book collections and lower usage it provides 
a sensible economy of space (and associated heat and light) 
but in smaller libraries where there is much demand, it is 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Space in a library is not neutral but fashioned by 
functional need. Learning Resource Centre, 
Sunderland University, designed by Building 
Design Partnership. (BDP) 

functions. As the nature of the collection changes so too 
does the library that serves it. 

The book is a major part of our cultural heritage: readers 
will continue to study them, books will be borrowed, ideas 
will be shared, and groups will meet in surroundings which 
respect this heritage (Arets, 2005, p. 311). The library 
somehow has to accommodate these traditional functions 
whilst also becoming the shared living rooms of an IT 
literate society. The ability of the library to encourage in- 
tellectual collaboration and knowledge exchange between 
people will be an important measure of the success of the 
building. Since knowledge is rapidly evolving into new 
fields and modes, space will inevitably be stressed in the 
process of delivering these important services. As Rem 
Koolhaas (the architect of Seattle Public Library) puts it 
‘rather than being a space to read’ the library of the future 
will be ‘transformed into a social centre for multiple 
responsibilities’ (Arets, 2005, p. 212). 

Space standards 

a false economy in spite of the claims made by manufac- 
turers of such systems. 

As a rule of thumb the book-stack area of the public 
library accounts for around 50% of the total area whilst for 
a university library, where greater IT provision is provided, 
it is nearer to 40%. It is a common problem to find too 
much space allocated to shelving and furniture resulting in 
restricted space for browsing and casual meeting. How- 
ever, much depends upon whether the stacks are compact 
or on open access for use by all readers, whether there is 
storage elsewhere (say in a basement), and what level of 
workspace and IT-based provision is to be accommodated. 
An economy can be achieved by providing book-stack 
galleries within double height reading rooms — the mez- 
zanine being employed for relatively low stacks which can 
be reached without ladders. This is a modification of 
double height book stacks of eighteenth and nineteenth 
century libraries, which in turn led to lofty reading rooms. 
The benefit of mezzanine book galleries is not just func- 
tional: the space for reading has the quality of space and 
light needed for reflection whilst the retrieval of books is 
undertaken in more utilitarian surroundings — perhaps 
using sensor-based artificial lighting. 

Historically, the three main areas of a library have 
consisted of the general stack area, reference stack area and 
reading room. Although we have today many other func- 
tional zones (e.g. children’s library, IT suite) the primary 
three part division remains true particularly for larger 
libraries. However, there is a tension between the major 
parts which has been exacerbated by the growth in the 
number of books and the invasion of CD-ROMs and In- 
ternet information systems. As a consequence, the reading 
room is often sacrificed or combined with other library 

There are no international standards for space in relation to 
public libraries, as the range of groups served is deemed to 
be too variable (Khan, 2006). University, college and 
school libraries do have some recommended space allow- 
ances related to the numbers of students. For all types of 
library there are several guides available on the Internet to 
help work out the space required for a new or refurbished 
building. In the context of the whole space required, vari- 
ous resources agree on the following seven types of space 
to be considered in a new library building: 

• Collection space — to take account of books (open access 
and closed), periodicals (display and back issues) and 
non-print resources. Digital resources may need some 
space allocation. 

• Electronic workstation space — for staff use, public use 
in the main area, as well as any requirements in meet- 
ing room areas. A public access catalogue used from 

a seated position requires 4 sq. m. 

• User seating space — plan for 5 seats per 1,000 users. 
Table seating requires 2.5 sq. m per reader, a study 
carrel 3, and lounge chairs 3-4 sq. m. A useful average is 
3 sq. m per seated reader. 

• Staff workspace — including areas in the public part of 
the library and separate workroom facilities. 15 sq. m 
per staff work area (e.g. issue counter, help desk) is 

a good planning guide. 

• Meeting space — including conference space, a lecture 
theatre or a room for children’s activities. When calcu- 
lating seat space, the square footage for lecture-style 
chairs would be the total number of chairs multiplied by 
10. For conference-style seating the figure would be 
multiplied by 25. Seating for children’s activities would 
require 1.5 sq. m per child. Space would also need to be 


Space and interior design 

allocated to other functions like cafes, with storage space 
for equipment. 

• Special use space — e.g. a local history room, job centre, 
tourist information centre or special collection with 
appropriate facilities for users to access the material. 
Generally, suppliers of equipment should include this 
detail in their catalogues. 

• Non-assignable space — including toilets, stairs, 
lifts, corridors and space required for heating or other 
systems on which the library depends. In general, 
non-assignable space accounts for between 20% and 
25% of the gross floor area of a typical library. 

Flexibility in design 

One of the most valued qualities of a library building is 
flexibility. This is not a finite commodity and should be 
realistically anticipated in designs. It is not feasible to 
design in total flexibility for future needs other than for 
those currently anticipated. Flexibility therefore needs to 
be built in through a sequence of options, rather than un- 
limited movement of all aspects of the collection. In- 
corporating flexibility will result in some compromise in 
terms of lighting and layout, which can result in an overall 
blandness in design. 

Each library will have unique features that require 
specific solutions. Even the most basic library service has 
some element that will lend itself to a different treatment. It 
is these differences that allow more interesting designs to 
emerge. It is far more normal for libraries to accrete 
functions than to discard them. Changes of function are to 
be expected if buildings are to evolve over time. Libraries, 
with their quick take-up and adaptation of computer 
methods for records management, have had to considerably 
adapt desks and work areas to hold technological equip- 
ment. A major change over the past 30 years has been the 
move from card issue and catalogue systems to automated, 
computer-based ones. Thus, issue desks designed to hold 
wooden trays of one set of ‘Browne’ issue cards have been 
adapted to hold several computer terminals, bar code 
wands and desensitizing equipment. 

Flexibility and growth 

Using shelving as an example, it is clear that any growth in 
collections either by annual addition or the incorporation of 
book stock from other libraries will need more shelves. The 
rate of growth can be calculated accurately and thus de- 
signers can determine an optimum amount of shelving for 
a period of years. Most librarians will also be able to 
project any estate changes that will have to be integrated 
into the new building. For example, during the building of 
the Adsetts Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, it was 
agreed to close two of the university’s other libraries. The 

Space standards for public libraries 

30 sq. m for every 1 ,000 population 
5 reader spaces per 1 ,000 population 
Storage of 1 10 volumes per sq. m 
Circulation areas around 20% of total floor space 
1 staff member per 2,000 population 

Library provision for colleges 

1sq.m for every 10 students 
1 study space per 10 students 

Library floor area approximately 10% of total college floor 

Library floor area approximately 20% of total teaching 

2.5 sq. m study space per student 

Library provision for universities 

1 sq. m for every six students 

1 study space per six students 

Library floor area approximately 12-15% of total 
university floor space 

4 sq. m study space per student 

new building therefore included the space needed to con- 
tain the collections previously housed at these two site 

Key factors to consider in interior design 

Are the floor loadings adequate for the collection? 

Is the wiring layout suitable for future IT needs? 

Are the environmental conditions acceptable 
for the planned use? 

Is the collection secure from fire or theft? 


Is the building welcoming as well as functional? 

Are the routes and major spaces legible to the user? 
Is there space for reflection? 

Do readers have good access to daylight? 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Integration of old and 
new technologies within 
same library area at 
Norway’s National 
Library. (Brian Edwards) 

Open-plan designs are utilized as a solution to the need 
for flexibility. Open-plan designs normally incorporate 
shelving on floors, with sections for user spaces woven 
between them. Shelving is used to create flexible barriers to 
noise, movement and distraction. The fixed features of any 
design will create inflexibility. Lifts, building structure, 
emergency exits, purpose-designed areas for photocopiers 
and similar features will provide static features around 
which the other elements of provision have to be fitted. 

Subdividing large volumes for growth 

Accommodation growth in libraries can be achieved by 
constructing a large initial volume, which is then colonized 
over time by new floors and mezzanine levels. In effect, the 
building is filled in to absorb the inevitable growth in the li- 
brary collection. In theory, this is an economical way to 
proceed since the perimeter of the library remains static. 
However, the internal disruption caused by periodically 
constructing new floors can be damaging to the life of the 
library. But it does allow the new floors, rooms and decks to 
be tailored to the specific requirements of that part of the li- 
brary. For instance, if growth is mainly towards IT provision 
then the building fabric needed for this can be designed ac- 
cordingly. Likewise, if growth is to accommodate a special 
collection (such as historic photographs), then the specific 
floor loadings and environmental conditions can be met. 

There are three advantages to this approach to library 
growth. First, it allows for phased construction, shifting the 
initial financial burdens to future generations. It also gives 
the library greater flexibility in meeting needs that cannot 
always be predicted at the outset. Finally, it allows the li- 
brary to invest in the perimeter shell and basic structural 
elements knowing that such investment will be long-term. 
The disadvantage of the physical disruption to the interior 
can be offset by using prefabricated elements of con- 
struction (no wet finishes) and designing the initial shell so 
that roots of colonization are in place at the outset. The 
latter entails well thought-out service runs, good overall 
access to natural light and a robust circulation system. 

Flexibility in layout 

Circulation desks, movement and ergonomics 

Circulation desks are complicated work areas. The com- 
modity of books and the recording, return and reservation 
of materials mean complex operations at the counter area. 
Computer systems are now widespread; few libraries use 
manual issue and recording systems. Security tags need 
desensitizing and most of this equipment is clumsy and 
space-intensive. In addition, most systems require fines to 
be taken and thus tills have to be accommodated in the 
work area. Counter areas more typically resemble those 


Space and interior design 

Large simple volumes provide greater flexibility than 
irregular shapes, University of Hertfordshire Library. 
Architects: Architects Co. Partnership. (Forster 

found in supermarkets than the reception areas of hotels, 
and models based on retail practice are now commonplace. 
However, it is an area where staff opinions are very im- 
portant. The physical variations of members of staff and 
users (many of whom may have degrees of disability) 
ensure that solutions to the counter design are usually ge- 
neric. This has the advantage of providing some stan- 
dardization of practice according to type of library, giving 
the further benefit of mass production of equipment and 

Managing the stock 

The management of book and journal stock involves ele- 
ments of processing, recording, handling and storage; all 
these bring about movement that is usually managed by 
trolley. All areas in libraries must allow for the safe and 
easy movement of book trolleys between them. The main 
circulation consists of: 

• movement to and from shelves of mainly book-based 

• movement to and from shelves or storage of CD-ROMs 

• network issues between libraries or departments 

• printing, photocopying and other paper-based material. 

Space design for staff as well as stock 
Staff accommodation 

Library support staff and maintenance functions 
normally occupy about 12—15% of notional floor area. 
There are three main types of staff accommodation, the 

Typical services provided within a public or academic 

Access to and loan of books 
Access to journals and newspapers 
Use of workstations 
Access to the Internet 
Electronic access to research journals 
Guidance to sources of information 
Community and visitor support 
Cafe and refreshment area 

first being the circulation or information desk which 
provides guidance to library users. Normally this is 
inside the library entrance, facing visitors as they arrive, 
and needs to be welcoming and conspicuous. Here li- 
brary staff can provide surveillance of the library en- 
trance whilst dealing with the registration of new readers, 
the issue and return of loan books (assuming electronic 
systems are not in place) and general guidance on the 
facilities available. 

The second main area is the back-up staff room where 
librarians can undertake their administrative duties, pro- 
cess and catalogue books and journals, provide copy 

Considerations for 
layout of book stacks 

Secondary issues 

Position book 
stacks to define 
routes through library 

Ensure safety 
exits are visible 

Use book stacks as 
acoustic barriers 

Consider acoustic 
and thermal properties 
of book stacks together 

Compress stacks 
to create reader 
areas at perimeter 
of building 

Provide adequate 
space for safe 
use in dense 
stack areas 

Provide light 
sensors in deep 
stack areas 

In large libraries 
lighting is the major 
energy user 

Ensure floor 
loadings are adequate 
for dense book stacks 

Changing internal 
layout can be constrained 
by structural limitations 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

services and hold meetings. In larger libraries there will 
also be a separate room for the head librarian and possible 
assistant, and the facilities listed earlier will be duplicated 
on each floor. 

Each specialist or reference library will also be serviced 
by a team of librarians who again will have their own ac- 
commodation. This represents the third main type of li- 
brary staff area. Here repair and conservation may also take 
place, plus digitizing of the rare book collection. 

Although it is common to have staff accommodation 
related to the circulation desk, in larger libraries the 
staffing areas are more closely related to the delivery point 
for books, journals and newspapers. However, a trend 
evident particularly in academic libraries is for the staff 
accommodation to be related directly to the collection with 
librarians being accessible at all times. This enables the 
librarian to act as subject navigator for the student with the 
added benefit of proximity to the books and journals, as 
well as providing a point of contact regarding electronic 
sources. This arrangement works well with either open 
desk library staff provision or the use of glazed library 
offices within the study collection. The change in role of 
the librarian from that of security of the collection to 
subject guide has altered the interior layout of many library 
buildings. The librarian also provides guidance on the IT 
equipment available, both hardware and software elements. 
Again visibility of staff is crucial if this role is to be 
effectively delivered and this militates against the pro- 
vision of anything other than a desk. 

The unique features of library management require the 
application of various planning and design strategies to 

meet staff accommodation needs. Many library staff work 
in office-based areas, but their tasks are not regular office 
tasks. Space norms for offices have to be extended to ac- 
commodate the additional features of library-based rou- 
tines. The obvious additional feature in the working space 
for those library staff engaged in processing or cataloguing 
is the physical presence of books and other printed matter. 
Materials have to be brought into the working area and 
stored for short periods. Every item in a library is subject to 
some particular treatment. Books and media items require 
processing to increase durability and to be individually 
catalogued and security tagged. Journals and newspapers 
also have to be logged in and recorded. Working spaces 
thus have to be larger than those in regular offices and 
desks have to reflect this feature of working practices. 

Depending on the type of library, all functions have to 
be defined with space standards developed with the staff 
responsible. These are the basic functions associated with 
the collection: acquisitions, cataloguing and classifica- 
tion, journal accessioning, binding, security systems, 
preservation and repair. In a public system, it is usual for 
these functions to be carried out in a central library. 
Branch libraries do not normally undertake these activi- 
ties unless they have specific functions (e.g. a local 
studies area or business service) which are unique in the 
overall system and are managed locally. Specialist 
libraries, national libraries and academic libraries normally 
have collections with unique processing requirements. 
Practice here is less standardized than in public libraries, 
with the result that microsystems exist within areas of 
more generic practice. 









Pattern of flow in lending library. (Biddy Fisher) 


Space and interior design 

Reader space against window at University of 
Lancaster Library. (Brian Edwards) 

Personal and working space in the library 

Whereas the nature of the space needs to reflect the orga- 
nization and character of the collection, space in the library 
is also a personal matter. Library space for the reader 
consists of: 

• table space 

• book-stack access space 

• circulation space 

plus also: 

• ambience and reflective space. 

Personal space is real and a question of perception. It is 
both measurable and atmospheric, fixed and elastic. While 
it is possible to have precise dimensions for workbays, 
table width and space between book stacks, personal space 
is a matter of taste and preference. The library designer 
needs to ensure that the mechanistic function of space is 
well planned, but also that the personal, spiritual and 
atmospheric nature of space is considered equally. 

Well-designed working space at the Scottish Poetry 
Library, designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects. 
(Malcolm Fraser Architects) 

A reader’s personal space is deepest at the front, and 
narrowing to the sides and rear. The ‘bubble’ of reading or 
working space extends for about a metre forwards and 
downwards from the face. Some people’s personal space is 
larger than others and, as a general rule, the longer you 
occupy the space, the bigger the bubble. We tolerate small 
spaces for short periods but if the library is of an academic 
or specialist nature, where readers study for long periods, 
additional working space is required. 


It is normal to create carrels for personal study in libraries, 
but the percentage of provision to readers varies according 
to library type. As a general rule, allow 10—20% of carrel 
space per user in a public library, 25—50% in an academic 
library, 50-70% in a national library, and 70-90% in 
a specialist or research library. Carrel size may vary as 
well: from 3 ft (0.9 m) wide in a public library to 4 ft wide 
(1.2 m) in an academic library, and 5 ft wide (1.5 m) in 
a specialist library. The width and depth of a carrel are 
based upon the likely number of books or periodicals 
jointly referred to and also whether maps, drawings or 
photographs form part of the expected study material. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Carrels defined by task lighting at Phoenix Public 
Library, designed by Will Bruder. (Andrew North) 

Carrel depth too varies from 2 ft (0.6 m) to 3 ft (0.9 m) and 
partition height from 4 ft (1.2 m) to 5 ft (1.5 m). 

Carrels are simple work positions with low dividing 
screens affording some privacy and, in larger carrels, the 
presence also of a single shelf. Larger carrels may have 
space for a computer, thus allowing the reader to move 
between paper and electronic sources without leaving the 
chair. Carrels are best positioned in quiet enclaves or bays 
away from through traffic. Ideally, readers should face 
readers (though screened by a dividing partition), with 
backs facing backs. This affords privacy and allows for the 
‘bubble’ of personal space to be contained without 

violation of cross-movement to the front. Circulation 
behind the reader can also be disturbing and should not 
consist of frequent through movement — only access by 
readers to other carrels. 

The area of carrels in a library should form a ‘study 
territory perhaps within a cleared area of book stacks or, 
more commonly, as a bay near the perimeter of the 
building. The latter allows the readers to enjoy access to 
views and sunlight, which can offer temporary relief from 
the rigour of intensive study. 


Tables are commonly employed in libraries both as 
a working space and an area to lay out larger material such 
as newspapers, maps, prints and photographs. Tables and 
chairs are cheaper to provide than carrels and offer greater 
flexibility of layout. Normally, a group of readers shares 
a table — normally rectangular — with up to 10 chairs po- 
sitioned on either side. The larger the table, the easier it is 
to avoid the domination of the space by a single in- 
dividual. With a table shared by two to four readers, the 
personality of a single reader can disrupt the whole. Small 
tables are consequently less useful than large ones and 
small tables for two tend to be occupied by a single reader. 
In tables for six, those sitting in the centre tend to spread out, 
making those at the end of the table feel uncomfortable. So, 
in spite of their flexibility and relative low cost, carrels are 
preferred to tables in all but school or branch libraries. 

Tables, however, are useful for group working and 
discussion is permitted at them. The trend towards group 

Chairs and tables 
arranged to encourage 
social exchange at 
Sunderland City Library. 


Space and interior design 

How furniture layout influences social 
contact. (Brian Edwards) 


project work in universities has encouraged certain aca- 
demic libraries to designate areas for ‘quiet discussion’. 
Tables are obviously more useful here than carrels and 
round ones are preferable to rectangular ones. It is well 
known that circular tables are best for conversation and the 
round form helps to avoid territorial demarcation. As 
a general rule, conversation should take place within 
groups of individuals seated no more than 6 ft apart (1.8 m). 
Above this distance voices are raised and the sense of 
a small, collaborating study community eroded. 

The layout of tables and chairs can encourage conversa- 
tion or promote privacy. When the chairs face towards each 
other, eye contact and verbal exchange occur; when they are 
placed back to back, no such intercourse takes place. In parts 
of the library where silent working and privacy are expected, 
furniture layout should reinforce the lack of contact between 
readers (or staff and readers). On the other hand, where 
exchange is encouraged — perhaps in an entrance foyer or 
larger concourse — chairs may face each other. 

The position of the counter should provide surveil- 
lance over the library collection. (LFC) 

If furniture layout is the product of working needs in dif- 
ferent types of library and their constituent parts, tables, chairs, 
carrels and book stacks can also be employed to articulate the 
architectural order of the library (SCONUL, 1996, p. 38). 
Furniture can help to reinforce the spatial or structural pattern 
of the library with the position of tables and chairs creating 
territories that help zone functions or express routes. In this 
regard, furniture layout is a matter of reader need and that of 
the building where functional order should be expressed or 
highlighted for the sake of legibility or convenience. Poor 
furniture layout can disrupt the flow of architectural space. 

Security planning and design 

Before libraries as distinctive buildings or rooms became 
commonplace, a learned person’s books were kept in 
locked chests. This arrangement provided security from 
theft and protection from water penetration or animals. 
When a scholar needed to resort to a book or manuscript, 
all that was needed was a key and table on which to spread 
the material. As books were mainly in manuscript form 
until about 1600 and hence rare, the chest afforded balance 
between security and accessibility. For example, before the 
widespread use of printed books, the library of Oxford 
University (as against the separate college libraries) was 
held in chests in a nondescript room adjoining St Mary’s 
Church. It was only after Duke Humphrey’s Library of 
1445 was incorporated into the Bodleian Library (1610) 
that purpose-built accommodation for medieval manu- 
scripts was provided. Here books and manuscripts were 
arranged according to subject in locked cabinets and read 
standing using the stall system. The key holder was per- 
sonally responsible for security of the material. 

The main threats today to the library collection are the 
theft of books, the removal of pages (particularly valuable 
plates) from books, fire and water damage. The main 
threats to library staff are personal attack and to readers of 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Considerations for layout and design of library 

Provide visible staff desks on each floor to guide 

Provide reader tables in areas well served by natural 

Divide large reader tables into personal study areas 

Ensure mix of table sizes and layouts to suit nature of 

Ensure tables are connected to IT systems 

Secondary issues 

Library staff should be visible to aid readers 

Place tables at edge of library or in internal atria spaces 

Provide separate power points along length of table 
Atlases and newspapers require different table designs 

Encourage mixture of media usage at study tables 

theft of personal belongings (wallets, briefcases, laptops). 
Security and safety are questions addressed at the design 
stage and kept under review when the library is in opera- 
tion. Different strategies are needed according to: 

• the type of library and consequent degree of risk 

• the type of risk 

• the location of the library. 

Type of theft 

Four types of theft commonly occur at libraries and dif- 
ferent strategies are needed to overcome each. Generally 
speaking there is: 

• theft of books and journals 

• theft from books and journals 

• theft of equipment 

• theft from the person. 

The degree of threat from theft varies according to the type 
of library. Where the library collection has high financial 

Fireproof compact shelving, provided by Forster 
Ecospace at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University. 
(Forster Ecospace) 

value, books are commonly taken. When on the other hand 
the equipment has high value, it is electronic goods which 
are stolen. Where there is a high turnover of trusting young 
people (as at a university library), the greatest volume of 
theft is from handbags, briefcases and jackets. Theft is not 
a uniform problem across all libraries but a problem whose 
characteristics vary according to library type and location. 

Risks in different types of library 

National and specialist libraries face the greatest risk (at 
least in monetary terms) of theft. Here security has to be 
both real, comprehensive (covering all areas including 
toilets) and visible. Thieves should be aware of the extent 
of security: this acts as a general deterrent and, with guile, 
can be used to trap thieves in areas perceived to be less 
secure. The normal approach in libraries at high risk is to 
have rooms within rooms whereby the most valuable ma- 
terial is kept away from general readers. Such libraries, for 
example the King’s Library at the British Library in 
London, are in effect vaults with far stricter security than 
occurs elsewhere (see pages xx — xx). Related to this ap- 
proach are two further refinements: the secure library may 
be encased in glass on the assumption that transparency is 
an effective crime deterrent. In addition, only a limited 
amount of the valuable collection is ever on display — the 
remainder being in locked storage. 

In academic, town or professional libraries, the security 
risk is not so high but even here a hierarchy of protective 
measures is required. The library may have to be zoned 
(horizontally and vertically) into highly secure, secure, 
semi-secure and open access areas. Each level of security 
will have its own management responsibility, its own level 
of locks and cameras, and its own evacuation policy in the 
event of fire or other disaster. The most secure accom- 
modation is commonly placed furthest from the general 
reader. In addition readers often need to make appoint- 
ments in advance to view the most valuable material, 
providing administrators with the chance to confirm the 
visitor’s credentials. The determined thief will not risk 


Space and interior design 

Environmental considerations 

Restrict plan depth to 15 m for maximum daylight 

Create internal atria in large depth libraries 

Provide solar shading and internal blinds on large south 
facing glazing areas 

Use external light shelves to increase daylight penetration 
Place reader tables in well-lit areas 
Avoid air-conditioning except in ‘hot spots’ 

Employ mixed-mode ventilation systems 
Maximize natural ventilation in public areas 

stealing a whole book in a secure environment, but may be 
tempted to extract a plate or slip a rare photograph out of 
a folder. Hence visual surveillance is required, backed up 
by security cameras in the areas most at risk. 

Since the number of people using branch libraries is 
declining, library managers need to consider whether some 
theft is a price worth paying for keeping the library attrac- 
tive to users. The casual removal of a dog-eared paperback 
or back copy of a car magazine does not justify expensive 
and off-putting security measures. The concept of an open 
library is one where some theft is inevitable, especially in 
inner city areas. Where security needs to be addressed in 
such libraries is in local study areas (which may contain old 
maps or photographs) and in parts of the library where 
computers are housed. As in national or major civic 

The library environment should provide conditions 
which do not discriminate. Here lighting levels, table 
layout and counter height all encourage use by 
people with disabilities. University of Westminster, 
Marylebone Campus Library. (Forster Ecospace) 

libraries, the designer and librarian need to plan for levels of 
risk rather than adopt a policy of blanket high security. 

Type of risk 

Although theft is a major problem at some libraries, the 
greatest threat is fire and attendant water damage. Some 
80% of fires in libraries in the USA are caused by arson and 
these account for more loss of material overall than theft. 
For example, the fire started deliberately at Los Angeles 
Central Library in 1986 resulted in the destruction of half 
a million volumes and water damage to the same number 
again (SCONUL, 1996, p. 38). Since libraries are public 
buildings and consequently attract disgruntled individuals, 
the threat of arson needs to be considered at the design stage. 

The ‘fuel’ load of book stacks is extremely high and, in 
newspaper and periodical rooms, there is an abundant 
supply of paper which can be readily ignited. Fire pro- 
tection is a question of planning and detailed design. In 
such areas, the architect should avoid quiet cul-de-sacs that 
are not easily patrolled by library staff. Openness and 
transparency are preferable. However, if a fire gains hold in 
an open-plan library, it is difficult to contain. A large 
number of books may be damaged by the attendant smoke. 
In addition, the water employed either by the local fire 
service or as part of a sprinkler system will probably have 
an even more damaging impact. The normal strategy in 
library design is to employ both open planning and com- 
partmentation. The latter consists of concrete floors and 
fireproof walls that effectively contain a fire, limiting 
spread and hence damage throughout the library. In many 
early libraries, the building was open over several storeys 
allowing a fire, once it got hold, to devastate the collection. 
Today horizontal compartmentation with only single storey 
book stacks is the norm. In most modern libraries, the 
construction of the floor provides fireproof sandwiches that 
hold the books of a group of related subjects in close lateral 
proximity. To move from floor to floor, the reader passes 
through fireproof doors and smoke containment lobbies. 

Though compartmentation is the most frequently 
adopted strategy for dealing with library fires, sprinkler 
systems are also commonly employed. These are auto- 
matically triggered and drench a small area to put out the 
fire. Of course, they also damage the books but it is 
assumed that the damage will be of limited extent. 
Modem automatic sprinkler systems are beginning to 
change the approach to fire engineering in some recent 
libraries. Rather than have a blanket system, the current 
practice is to employ localized controls related to sen- 
sitive smoke detectors placed throughout the library but 
at a higher density in sensitive areas. Sprinkler systems 
remove some of the justification for rigid stmctural fire 
compartmentation, allowing greater flexibility for the 
architect at the design stage and the librarian once the 
library is in use. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Sprinklers are not suitable for rare or valuable collec- 
tions. The best solution is to protect such rooms from ex- 
ternal fire by employing fireproof construction and having 
a clear strategy for the evacuation of the stock. All involved 
in fire security should be aware of special collections and 
have a readily understandable procedure for removing the 
collection to safety in the event of fire. Most large libraries 
have an emergency planning handbook that allocates clear 
duties for library staff and fire brigade personnel. The ar- 
chitect would normally be expected to contribute to the 
handbook at the handover of the building. 

Since water is a major threat to books and electronic 
data systems, the design of the building should eliminate 
any risk of water penetration, condensation and accidental 
overflowing of cisterns. With the exception of those re- 
quired to serve the sprinkler system, water pipes should not 
cross library areas (in the suspended ceiling or the floor 
slab). To avoid flooding in the toilet areas, taps should have 
automatic cut-off valves or be of a spray type. Unless the 
construction guarantees humidity control, book storage in 
basements should also be avoided. Similarly roof spaces 
should not be employed for storage unless entirely free of 
water penetration and condensation. With global warming 
and the resulting climate change, what may be water secure 
today may not prove so in a generation’s time. 

The avoidance of unnecessary activation of sprinkler 
systems means that no-smoking policies must be rigidly 
enforced. Sprinklers should be checked regularly for leaks 
and blocking of nozzles. A design that relies upon auto- 
matic sprinklers for fire safety entails a recurring com- 
mitment to maintenance of the system. 

Location of the library in relationship to security 

Libraries in high-risk areas are more vulnerable to a variety 
of safety and security problems. Arson is more prevalent in 
urban than rural areas and in big cities rather than small 
ones. If a library is built near other high-risk buildings 
(such as railway stations or public houses), the problems 
may be greater than elsewhere. The brownfield site in the 
inner city poses dangers which need to be recognized at the 
outset. Although a library built here could do much to in- 
vigorate a neighbourhood, the crime prevention measures 
may need to be stricter. 

A problem location poses additional risks to the collec- 
tion, library staff and users. All three need to be addressed by 
the addition of safety lighting at the perimeter of the building, 
extra security cameras inside and at the entrance, a human 
safety policy on opening hours, and robust design. Although 
individuals may be at risk, the problems often extend to the 
building itself, to staff cars, and those using nearby streets. 
Hence, correspondence between the library security strategy 
and nearby policing is needed. As with the fire service, the 
local police crime prevention officer and library manage- 
ment staff need to develop a security strategy together. 

Getting books to readers 

Libraries increasingly employ outhousing as a means of 
accommodating the expansion of the stock. The physical 
limits of the library building provide an obvious constraint 
upon the number of books that can be stored. With new 
libraries, it is possible to anticipate growth by providing 
room for subsequent expansion but in older buildings such 
space, if it exists, has already been exhausted. The usual 
solution for both large reference and academic libraries is 
to use nearby buildings for the storage of less frequently 
accessed material. 

Outhousing has the advantage of providing ideal condi- 
tions in purpose-built warehouses for storage without com- 
promising the library itself. Where special collections are 
involved (for example historic manuscripts, photographs, 
plans) such storage can be linked to conservation de- 
partments. For the reader, however, outhousing can cause 
delay in obtaining access to the material. Without almost 
instant access, there can be a lack of spontaneity and cross- 
referencing of types of material. Where a scholar is involved 
in interdisciplinary research, this can be a particular problem. 

As a general rule, it is easier to get the reader to the 
books than the books to the reader. IT data systems do, of 
course, remove the problem of distance altogether but, 
until all books are converted into electronic formats, the 
reader is normally left with CD-ROMs and with a few key 
headings rather than the book itself. Providing direct access 
for the reader to the books has implications for the location 
of the library as well as library design. It means for instance 
that the library should be centrally placed either on the 
academic campus or in the town. Storage of study material 
can be elsewhere. To some degree, special libraries such as 
the Ruskin Library can be in special places. However, the 
reader must be able to gain ready access to the books and, 
where space or scale of collection prohibits, it should be 
easy to get the book to the reader. This places a limit on the 
distance storage can be from the library itself. A reader 
may reasonably wait an hour or two, but to be asked to 
come back another day is not acceptable. 

The split between reader and storage is well handled at 
the National Library, Paris, where the four towers mark the 
comers of the podium that houses special collections and 
rarely used books. A similar split occurs at the British 
Library in London, where a three-storey basement holds 
the bulk of the material, supplemented by special collec- 
tions further afield. At the National Library in Edinburgh, 
the library and storage are a kilometre apart, with the result 
that readers wait an hour or two for any material ordered. 

The importance of the reading room 

Readers and books are normally connected to each other via 
open reading rooms where book stacks are located directly 
alongside tables and chairs (or reading desks). Here the reader 


Space and interior design 

Study spaces overlooking atrium at Vancouver’s 
Public Library. (Brian Edwards) 

can browse, retrieve a book and sit nearby at a desk to use the 
material, which is then returned to the shelf. Such an ar- 
rangement typically places computer terminals in banks at the 
end of tables, producing a triangular relation between books, 

Traditional lofty reading room at the UMIST Library, 
Manchester. (BDP) 

Modern Reading Room, University of Lancaster 
Library. (Brian Edwards) 

reader and screen. Alternatively, there are closed access 
reading rooms where the reader spends a long period of time 
at a desk consulting material drawn from storage elsewhere 
(sometimes from a warehouse outside the building). The 
closed reading room (used predominantly by researchers in 
reference libraries) is quite different from the open reading 
room preferred by humanities scholars and casual readers 
(Wilson, 1998; Davey, 1998). 

The type of reading room has implications for interior 
design — especially lighting, furniture layout and standing 
space. In open reading rooms, a great deal of browsing is 
undertaken — often without resorting to a chair. The reader 
is searching for an idea or the right book without a clear 
sense of destination. Some readers are in a sense beach- 
combing, hoping to stumble upon a treasure as they scan 
the shelves. Standing space is as important here as seating 
and, where chairs are provided, they need to provide 
a range of positions and conditions. The closed reading 
room, on the other hand, is a reference library where 
readers know in advance what they are looking for and 
roughly where to find it. Specific books or journals will be 
employed with the reader or researcher knowing in 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

advance on which shelves to search. Here the reader will 
spend a long time writing at a desk — taking breaks maybe 
for refreshment. The ambience in the closed reading room 
will not be casual or cafe-like, but formal with a disciplined 
arrangement of desks, chairs and lighting. Since the closed 
reading room will contain few books on open shelves, the 
emphasis here is upon furniture as against bookcases. 

The open access reading room is the form of almost all 
modern libraries. The closed access reading room remains 
the basis for most major reference libraries, many aca- 
demic ones and for private libraries. The open reading 
room depends upon relatively cheap books, good security 
and an inquisitive readership. The closed reading room is 
normally in response to the presence of expensive books or 
scarce study material, the need for high levels of security, 
and the demands of a research community. The relation- 
ship in a large library between open reading rooms and 
closed reference collections provides the basis for archi- 
tectural order and interior expression (Brophy and Craven, 
1999). The former establishes the democratic ambience of 
the building, the latter the points of security, enclosure and 
focus. The library as a building for the enjoyment of all is 
necessarily compromised by the particular, the scarce, the 
rare and the fragile. It is a dialectic which the best library 
designers turn to their advantage. 

Interior design 

Although in an ideal world paper and electronic sources are 
physically integrated on the reader’s desk, in reality the 
technical demands and characteristics of different types of 
media result in separate zones being allocated for each. 
There is usually a zone or room for computer users, 
a separate area for those referring to journals or newspa- 
pers, the library book stacks and collections of reading 
desks, and perhaps special study carrels. The separate 
zones may be distinctive functional areas but they are 
generally linked by wide connecting corridors. It is an ar- 
rangement that allows one area to adopt a different policy 
on noise or security than another; it permits internal change 
without disruption to the whole; and it allows different 
users to employ the library resources in different ways. A 
varied interior culture is preferable to one where there is 
a corporate standardization across the whole estate. Such 
variety can be engineered or left to grow as the nature of 
users and the collection changes. At Peckham Library there 
are three pods within the main book areas designed spe- 
cifically to house the special collections. Each is specific to 
the collection and tailored to the tastes of potential users. 

Zoning the interior of the library into distinctive areas 
rather than separate rooms is the policy generally adopted 
in all but national libraries. Here the nature of the collec- 
tion or its conservation requires much more attention to 
security and environmental stability. Elsewhere, in- 
tegration is the norm within the constraints imposed by 

noise, screen conditions and general comfort. It is impor- 
tant that the interior layout provides space for reflection on 
the library material employed rather than its use in strictly 
functional terms. Hence, the nature of the spaces created, 
how they are lit and the interior views available, all deserve 
attention. Even if the information sources cannot be gath- 
ered into one place, the reader should be encouraged to use 
imagination to join them together. This is the basis for the 
traditional domed reading rooms of public libraries. 

The library is a building type where users often spend 
a great deal of time in private contemplation. For many 
students the bulk of their private study time is spent in 
libraries and for the non-academic user the library is often 
a place where many hours are devoted to intellectual pur- 
suit. There is, therefore, growing demand to provide fa- 
cilities of a non-library nature within the building. This 
normally consists of a cafe and sandwich bar, but can also 
include gallery space for showing local art works or 
displaying community projects. As libraries broaden their 
social role to become ‘ideas stores’ there is pressure to 
increase the extent of non-library accommodation within 
their walls. The problem for the architect is how to bring 
the library and non-library functions into a coherent whole. 

Room layout, furniture and shelving 

Most libraries are subdivided by book stacks that provide 
the basis for zoning areas into functional parts. The stacks 
also provide acoustic protection, have important environ- 
mental qualities (they provide thermal mass), and help 
define routes through the library. The position and type of 
shelving is essential to the smooth operation of a library; it 
needs to be located carefully in relation to the fixed parts 
such as columns, lifts, stairs, walls and doors. The book 
stacks also dictate the layout of seating, tables and the 
position of workstations. 

Growth in IT provision is sometimes at the cost of areas 
for book storage. As a result shelving is often closely 
spaced and increasingly aspects of the book collection are 
stored elsewhere. Growing use of libraries is sometimes at 
the expense of space standards, both in seating area and 
library shelving. Designers need to consider both the needs 
of readers and of staff who have the task of servicing the 
collection. Although books are generally decreasing in 
size, art books are getting larger, and whereas PCs are also 
shrinking with the growing use of laptops, the number of 
readers who arrive armed with the latest digital technology 
is increasing rapidly. Hence, layouts and service points 
need to accommodate these changes. 

Academic libraries provide much more computer space 
than public libraries. In some university libraries the areas 
given over to IT-based learning resource centres can exceed 
that of book and journal storage. The use and loan of CDs 
and the development of a learning rather than teaching 
culture have led also to the academic library being 


Space and interior design 

Furniture and finishes 
are crucial to the 
experience of a library. 
Cranfield University 
Library designed by 
Foster and Partners. 
(James Morris/Foster 
and Partners) 

extensively employed in group teaching. Rooms are set 
aside for seminars within the library itself and often the 
Internet provides the main resources on which students 
draw. As a result the nature of the interior spaces change into 
a hybrid between the traditional library reading room and 
something more akin to a stock market trading floor. The use 
of the library for seminar-type teaching also puts pressure on 
the lifts, stairs and corridors at the end of timetabled 
teaching and this can disrupt private study areas. 

Table layout is an important consideration since the 
distribution of reader spaces can influence the configuration 
of columns and interior walls. The layout of tables and 
shelves is largely dependent upon the type of library in 
question. Libraries with large book collections increasingly 
store less frequently used material in basement areas or in 
other locations. Here modern rolling book stacks can be 
employed, thereby saving on space and cost. Basement 
storage is useful because the high loadings can be more 
readily accommodated than on upper floors and the reader is 
not kept waiting too long for the material to be accessed. 
Reader tables, rather than individual study desks, are the 
norm and these are usually placed near the perimeter of 
the library or in special reader rooms. Tables usually have 
the facility to use a laptop and often there is a desk lamp and 
small storage area provided per reader space on a shared 
table of perhaps eight seating positions. Much depends upon 
the type of library and the proximity to specialist IT areas. 

An area needs to be set aside also for special library use 
such as employing large atlases or maps, broadsheet 
newspapers and archival material. There may be security 
issues to consider as well as furniture needs such as large 
tables. Often there is the need to make copies and this can 

Study desks against the curved perimeter wall 
of Vancouver Public Library, designed by Moshe 
Safdie, provide an attractive environment for reading. 
(Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

pose a noise and environmental problem. In public libraries 
there is often a sharing of tables for a variety of purposes, 
but in academic and professional libraries study areas are 
set aside for specific purposes. 

Dedicated areas for the use of electronic media are in- 
creasingly provided in libraries of all types. Although the 
integration of digital and paper-based systems is the ideal, 
often the constraints of security, noise and readership needs 
lead to the zoning of an area for the prime us of CD-ROMs 
and other forms of electronic media. In many academic 
libraries a dedicated learning resources centre is provided 
catering specifically for computer use, often with associ- 
ated mixed-media, printing and teaching spaces. These 
areas require provision not unlike that of a computerized 
office floor in business premises. Hence, the design breaks 
the mould of the traditional library in the type of lighting, 
wiring layout and acoustic provision. As a result there is 
often a library and IT learning centre side by side either as 
two joined buildings under the same envelope (Thames 
Valley University) or two separate but adjacent buildings 
(University of Sunderland). In public libraries where the 
level of IT provision is lower, the two activities are 
normally integrated. 

Environmental considerations 

Natural light and ventilation are preferable, especially in the 
reader areas, but security and plan depth can make this dif- 
ficult to achieve. As a result most libraries employ a mixed- 
mode ventilation system which incorporates a mixture of 
natural and mechanical systems, often employing atria 
spaces and sometimes wind turbines. Since libraries use 
a great deal of artificial lighting, solar heat gain can be 
a problem especially where large areas of glazing are pro- 
vided on south facing elevations. It is better to avoid 
a southern orientation but where unavoidable solar screening 

This sketch for the Liddell Hart Centre of the Military 
Archives Library at King’s College London, by archi- 
tects Shepheard Epstein Hunter, shows the in- 
tegration of seating, lighting and book stacks 
necessary in modern research libraries. (Shepheard 
Epstein Hunter) 

The top floor reading room at Oak Park Public Library, 
Chicago, invites contemplation. (Brian Edwards) 

or special glass may be required. However, the use of solid 
facades to exclude adverse external conditions is not advis- 
able if the library is to assume a level of social engagement. 

As a matter of course low-energy light fittings and 
sensors should be fitted in all areas. The use of task lighting 
can result in lowering general light levels, but with 
a growing elderly population reducing overall light levels 
can result in accidents and poor user satisfaction. Light 
reflection on computer screens is also a consideration and 
generally results in PCs being in more central areas. 

In order to maximize natural light and ventilation, the 
plan depth should not exceed 15 m. However, this is dif- 
ficult to achieve in all but the smallest of libraries and 
hence artificial conditions are provided in most areas. Since 
most libraries are constructed in urban centres, the main 

Meeting tables and soft chairs mixed to encourage 
discussion at the War Veterans wing of the Oak Park 
Public Library, Chicago. (Brian Edwards) 


Space and interior design 

environmental factors are normally external air and noise 
pollution. Thus a great deal of attention should be directed 
to site choice and layout, the design of external facades and 
the internal zoning of the building. For example, by placing 
book stacks against noisy external walls a more satisfactory 
level of comfort is provided internally. 

As general rule readers like to work in natural light. This 
normally results in the perimeter placing of reader tables. 
Some seating areas can also be provided in inner sunlit 
spaces, particularly where magazines and newspaper are 
read. The creation of relaxation areas as distinct from study 
areas should take into account the different environmental 

Furniture and interior character 

The act of reading places library users in close proximity 
with furniture. Tables, chairs and bookshelves are not only 
used but also touched. The quality of the furniture is 
a significant element in the perception of the library ex- 
perience (Brawne, 1997). Furniture is seen and used: its 
tactile characteristics of texture, smell, naturalness and 
warmth are directly experienced. 

The small-scale environment of the library furniture 
is arguably more important than in other public build- 
ings. Reading is normally undertaken sitting at a desk, 
while retrieving books or journals requires immediate 
contact with shelves. Furniture, book stacks, carpets and 
lighting are all closely experienced as a consequence of 
library use. Table surfaces, chair finishes (whether 
plastic or leather), bookshelf construction, the type of 
task lighting, the construction of floors and much else 
make up the readers’ direct experience of the interior. In 
this sense, the functional and tactile are equally part of 
the designer’s responsibility with regard to interior 

Reading is a cerebral and sensual act. Many library 
users gain pleasure from the books, newspapers and peri- 
odicals: the search for knowledge is balanced by the pur- 
suit of leisure. For some the book itself is a treasure, 
handled with reverence and placed carefully with com- 
panions on a table or back on the library shelf. In some 
ways, the bookshelves are a frame enclosing and protecting 
works of cultural value. The library room too is not just 
a storage area for reading or retrieving books; it is almost 
a treasure chest. Certainly with rare or valuable books, 
there is often a correspondence at the level of detailed 
design between the book, the bookshelves and the room. 
Each is usually subscribing to the same system of values; 
as a consequence, the collection and the library share 
a common character. 

The relationship between the type of library material 
and the characteristics of the building itself allows the 
designer to moderate or style the interior to suit the 

qualities of the collection. For instance, a library of an- 
cient leather-bound books will quite reasonably have an 
interior to match — incorporating in all probability solid 
oak furniture, bookshelves with cornices, and panelled 
doors or cupboards. Some of those qualities are to be 
found in the contemporary Ruslcin library at Lancaster 
University designed by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard in 
1997. Here Ruskin’s collection of books, sketchbooks 
and letters are housed in a building which evokes the 
artist’s interests. The materials of the interior — hardwood 
furniture, leather, slate and thick hand-made glass — re- 
flect Ruskin’s love of authentic construction and colour. 
The leather is stained red; there is gold inlay and blue 
slate. The resulting interior captures the high Victorian 
age and provides a sympathetic context for the Ruskin 

By way of contrast, a modern computer library will 
probably be housed in a high-tech building. Not only do 
the functional and technical demands of IT drive the 
building into a particular form, the characteristics of the 
collection require the building to take on a specific 
character at a psychological level. At both macro and 
micro level, form and meaning need to correspond to the 
media of the library. So in a computer-based library one 
may expect to find: neutral, even lighting (to avoid 
screen glare); soft grey interior colours (so that the 
screen colour dominates); and steel, aluminium, plastic 
and glass (to reflect the materiality of the computers 
themselves). There is also likely to be the soft back- 
ground purr of air-conditioning to absorb the low buzzing 
tones of the computers and tapping of keyboards. The 
total environment will therefore be fundamentally dif- 
ferent to that of a traditional library. This applies not 
only to the interior as a whole, but to the design of 
tables, chairs and furnishings. These, like the elements of 
construction, will be of steel, glass, aluminium and 
synthetic fibre to create a sympathetic working frame- 
work for the IT library. 

Material considerations 

Most modem library buildings are concrete or steel frame 
stmctures. This allows light to enter the building through 
large areas of glass whilst also freeing the floors of struc- 
tural walls, thereby providing flexibility of layout. How- 
ever, concrete and steel are not attractive materials in their 
own right and this has encouraged designers to employ 
a wider palette of materials for internal finishes. This in- 
cludes glass, either on its own or with textured or coloured 
finishes, wood of various types, cork, linoleum, wool car- 
pets and other natural fibre fabrics. The aim is to increase 
the level of comfort by using materials which introduce 
into the library, as the architect Dominique Perrault puts it, 
a ‘more sensual, sensitive and smooth feeling’ (Arets, 
2005, p. 172) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Natural materials create an ambience of warmth and 
reflection in the Scottish Poetry Library, designed by 
Malcolm Fraser Architects. (Malcolm Fraser 

The dialogue between structure and finishes is a dy- 
namic one, not unlike that between books and the Internet. 
Coloured or decorative glass is increasingly being 
employed in contemporary libraries. It has many benefits — 
aesthetic and environmental — whilst also creating the 
ambiance of a social centre where, as Rem Koolhaas puts 

it, ‘all available technologies to collect, condense, read and 
manipulate information’ can coexist (Arets, 2005, p. 212). 
In the Seattle Public Library the glazing system becomes 
an envelope of unfolding planes which opens up the rich 
interior of wood veneers and coloured walls to exterior 

The tactile quality of materials extends to their touch, 
their visual texture, lustre and to their smell. The books 
themselves have similar characteristics. To read is to get 
close to the material of the book and to do so in sur- 
roundings which invite comfort and leisurely reading is 
to express the deeper nature of being inside a library. 
Architects can alienate users by excessive employment of 
hard synthetic materials. As Jacques Herzog notes, 
libraries are ‘fantastic places to read, to study, to meet, to 
hang around with books and people’ (Arets, 2005, p. 182). 
The choice of furniture and finishes made by designers 
should reinforce these qualities not undermine them. 


Arets, W. (2005). Living Library. Prestel. 

Brawne, M. (1997). Library Builders. Academy Editions. 

p. 216. 

Brophy, P. and Craven, J. (1999). The Integrated Accessible 
Library: a model of service development for the 21st century. 
BLRIC Report 168. British Library Board. 

Davey, P. (1998). Book Cases. Architectural Review , June, p. 6. 
Khan, A. (2006). Personal communication. The author is indebted 
to Ayub Khan of Warwickshire County Council who provided 
the bulk of this information in July 2006. 

SCONUL (1996). In The Development of Learning Resource 
Centres for the Future. Proceedings of a conference held at the 
Royal Institute of British Architects, 10 October, 1995. 
Standing Conference of National and University Librarians 

Wilson, C. St J. (1998). The Design and Construction of the 
British Library. British Library, pp. 19—20. 


Part 3 

Technical issues 

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Impact of new information 

As early as 1980 people were heralding the demise of the 
book. Yet the earliest use of computers in libraries was not 
to replace text but to streamline cataloguing systems. This 
was an appropriate response to an emerging technology as 
it offered the ideal, but unreachable, aim of bringing to- 
gether all the bibliographic references of recorded litera- 
ture. Visions of large printed volumes containing universal 
catalogues of publications were replaced by visions of 
banks of computer terminals giving direct access to those 
catalogues via the most powerful communications tech- 
nology — the Internet. 

New technology has impacted upon the library in three 
major ways: issue systems, records management and ac- 
commodation. The repercussions are felt by users and staff 
alike. It is inevitable that these impacts are reflected in li- 
brary design and building use but information technology 
(IT) has not led to the demise of the library as some have 
predicted. Observation suggests that libraries accrete 
functions and systems — they do not normally shed them. 
Libraries have moved from the chained book and manu- 
script to the provision of closed access shelving, to open 
access and to on-line information via the Internet. The 
printed book and library as we know it have survived 
through all these transitions. The mixed mode of in- 
formation supply suits the mixed readership and the mixed 
economy of data. 

Library buildings will be required to house print collec- 
tions for as long as society requires the use, preservation and 
conservation of words and artefacts which are represented by 
the book. Library buildings will be needed to fulfil the es- 
sential community function and to express culture and 
values. That technology is integrated into our libraries, not 
replacing them, is a measure of the social function of li- 
braries. The library community has embraced the appropri- 
ation of technology. The challenge of harnessing powerful 
tools for the manipulation of data appeals to a library pro- 
fession whose philosophy requires multiple use, multiple 
access and multiple functionality of expensive resources. 

Technological impact has been a major force in libraries 
from the late 1960s. For staff the immediate concern was 

the translation of daily tasks from manual to technological 
systems. The most usual projects involved moving from 
manual to automated issue for book/borrower records and 
the conversion of the records of the library collections from 
5 " x 3" catalogue cards to automated systems of records 

Manual systems involved routine filing activity bringing 
together slips of paper or card ‘pockets’ containing book 
cards into date and borrower sequences. Such systems were 
space and labour intensive and could not cope with cross- 
manipulation of data, making them vulnerable to chaos if 
the drawers containing the records were upset. This led to 
the introduction of large-scale projects involving retro- 
spective catalogue conversions. In the UK, academic li- 
braries were encouraged to engage in this activity by the 
University Grants Committee. Teams of people worked 
upon the records of individual libraries and, after a decade 
or so, it was possible to buy in records from catalogue 
banks — thus eliminating all but the most specialized of 
catalogue activities. Those catalogues which required 
a specific record or those collections that contained items 
which would not be covered by the agency approach 


Key relationships in the library. (Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

IT costs Technological 


New sources End-user 

of information requirements 

Main factors affecting the generation of virtual libraries. 
(Brian Edwards) 

continued to require a catalogue team to create records. 
Generally, however, standardized automated catalogues 
replaced card systems. 

Today there is worldwide commonality in the pro- 
vision of automated catalogues. This has transformed the 
ease by which the public have access to catalogues, par- 
ticularly by the adoption of an on-line public access cat- 
alogue (OP AC) and a dedicated PC terminal. Library 
planning is affected in two ways: there is the need for 
more public space to be provided for the terminals and 
their associated cabling system, and less space is needed 
by the cataloguing team. 

The accommodation required for computer hardware 
and software has also changed over the years. In the 1970s, 
computer hardware took up considerable space in specifi- 
cally designed environmentally suitable areas. Basements 
were usually chosen as the floor loading was suitable and 
the climatic conditions generally stable. Air-conditioning 

or air-cooling systems were needed and basements made 
the provision of such systems and the associated ductwork 
easier. Modern ‘server rooms’ are, however, little more 
than flexible cupboards. The significant change is in the 
sophistication of the wiring and cable management sys- 
tems. Buildings are required to incorporate the most flex- 
ible power distribution possible. This feature is one of the 
most difficult to accommodate in older buildings and, in 
new buildings, requires the time lapse between design and 
commissioning to be as close as possible. 

Libraries are becoming places where on-line in- 
formation is processed by users who provide the ‘plug-in’ 
technology themselves. This creates a social divide be- 
tween the information-rich and the information-poor. It is 
a situation that does not sit well alongside a key principle of 
librarianship — the free access to information for all in 
society. In this sense, modem technology which serves 
society at large can, in the domain of libraries, lead to an 
underclass as serious as the problem of illiteracy. 

Managing IT complexity 

The art of managing the various information systems in 
a modem library lies in reducing (or at least concealing) the 
complexity between systems. Users should be able to 
access available services without ‘having to worry about 
switches, nodes, cables and connectors’ (Whitehead, 1994, 
p. 17). There should be a smooth interface, especially be- 
tween traditional library material and electronic sources. 
The characteristics of effective interface are: 

• physical proximity 

• language compatibility 

• simplicity. 

New technology 
expressed by huge 
satellite discs outside 
the library at California 
State University, 
Sacramento. (Brian 


Impact of new information technology 

It follows, therefore, that one key factor in deciding upon 
an IT system is its user-friendliness. Over-complex mul- 
timedia packages, for instance, appeal only to computer 
experts and can have the affect of alienating mainstream 
library users. Although the cost of moving information has 
fallen, low transmission costs overall have resulted in 
globally more complicated systems. The library has to 
manage interface complexity to the benefit of all users, 
rather than satisfy the enthusiasms of those who are 

Part of managing information will be the linking of li- 
brary and home systems. This is already happening in ac- 
ademic and research libraries, where faculty connections 
exist at some distance from the main library. In the future 
people will be able to access the digital material held in 
their local library via the Internet. The library will become 
more virtual than real — at least for those who have 
networked computers at home. Just as home shopping 
allows you to browse and choose goods with your personal 
computer, the future holds the prospect of the ‘home li- 
brary’ (Whitehead, 1994, p. 20). Here it will be possible to 
read and download book and journal material, to call up 
CD-ROMs and to search both traditional and electronic 
sources via author or topic. The virtual library will be de- 
pendent upon a few real libraries around the world, but few 
expect it to make the local branch library invalid. In the 
latter, social exchange takes place and facilities are pro- 
vided for those without IT skills: ultimately the library is 
a community resource rather than a stepping-stone on the 
digital superhighway. 

Global digital information highways potentially offer 
libraries the chance to enhance their store of information 
and encourage users to use that knowledge more 

intelligently. Interaction between databases will be made 
easier and will interrelate book, journal, visual image and 
a multitude of electronic sources. If libraries harness the 
new electronic technologies in a user- or data-friendly 
fashion they can improve the level of service provided, 
leading to greater visitor numbers and higher regard for 
libraries by society at large. The IT revolution provides the 
means to amplify the human imagination, leading to 
greater creative outlook and more innovation (Whitehead, 
1994, p. 20). In this sense the library is a window into 
another world — just as it was with the advent of the printed 
book and the introduction in the nineteenth century of the 
public lending library. What the future offers is a library 
which lends ideas and knowledge rather than just books. 
But it will take a new kind of library building to serve this 
function. The library in effect becomes a set of services on 
a network, with the storage of print on paper part of an 
overall information infrastructure strategy (Ford, 1994, 
p. 23). The technological architecture (i.e. IT systems) then 
drives the physical architecture — changing the nature, 
functionality and form of libraries at the most fundamental 

After a decade of growing technological complexity, 
there are signs of global convergence in the IT field. 
Multimedia has become a vehicle for integrating systems, 
delivering new library models that bring together educa- 
tion, media and communications (Ford, 1994, p. 15). The 
distance (in virtual terms) between sources of information 
and users of information is shrinking. The library of the 
future will need to capitalize on current global conver- 
gences in order to integrate into a coherent whole the world 
of books, IT, telecommunications and media. This will 
have obvious benefits: it will enhance access, improve the 

User-friendly IT 
equipment integrated 
into furniture designs 
by Folio. (Folio) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

efficiency of data gathering and knowledge use, establish 
new opportunities for the delivery of training or research 
and, equally importantly, add to the pleasure of using 
a library. 

IT and space 

IT has not only changed the way we use libraries, it has also 
led to more fluid space use (less walls) and less de- 
marcation between librarians, support staff and in- 
formation managers. To some extent, users become their 
own subject librarians as they search through electronic 
catalogues and download information. Libraries are es- 
sentially a balance of space and structure, yet both are 
made redundant to a greater or lesser degree by the IT 
revolution. As libraries stabilize after the first shock waves 
of universal e-information (1980-2000), one can begin to 
take stock. The library is still a ‘repository of knowledge, 
a focus for reflection and a centre for exchange’ 
(Worthington, 1994, p. ii). The medium of knowledge has 
changed: reflection may be via the screen as against the 
book, and exchange is more likely to be electronic than 
paper-based, but the library still exists as a distinctive type 
of contained architectural space. Added to this, the tools of 
virtual information retrieval — the PC and associated net- 
works — are space-demanding in the same way that books 
consume the volume in which they are housed. 

As digital technology becomes more universal, it could 
be argued that space should become more specific. In 
a placeless world of electronic data, the real world of place 
takes on greater meaning. This paradox allows new library 
buildings to take on a character which transcends the im- 
mediate needs of technology. Certainly within the lifespan 
of a typical library (100-150 years) many technologies 
come and go. Buildings as intergenerational assets should 
rise above the transient pressures of emerging technologies. 
Whilst they need to accommodate new ways of storing and 
accessing information, libraries are more than giant con- 
tainers for the technology they house. Meaning is an es- 
sential ingredient beyond that of function, and space is 
fundamentally more important than technology. 

The library: space or service 

Architects perceive libraries as space, librarians as service. 
The reader on the other hand exploits both space and ser- 
vice to satisfy need. The problem with space is that the 
virtual library makes concepts of architectural volume re- 
dundant. The IT library exists in a kind of zero space. The 
virtual library shifts space need from that of a large public 
building to a myriad of private working areas in the office 
or home. 

Service provision in libraries is also changing under the 
impact of IT. The fusion of library and computer provision 

into a single building blurs the distinction between librar- 
ians and information technology managers (Worthington, 
1994, p. 24). Librarians now manage the IT collection and 
IT managers enhance access to library information sys- 
tems. So both the provision and use of library space is 
changing, and computing has altered the corresponding 
pattern of service delivery. There is now less emphasis on 
fixed elements such as the reference library and special 
collections and more emphasis upon improving access and 
support systems. The function of the library, both public 
and academic, has changed from that of book storage to 
information exchange (Worthington, 1994, p. 25). 

As a consequence of changing patterns of work and 
education, the library is also less a place for individual 
study and more a place for team projects or group 
working (Worthington, 1994, p. 24). Librarians see their 
task today as ‘navigators of knowledge’ with architects 
designing the ship in which the knowledge is housed. It is 
a ship which has to be capable of changing direction and 
which has, at the same time, to be recognizable and 
cherishable as a library. So while the computerized library 
has made traditional concepts of space redundant, it has 
not removed the need for social and cultural space. After 
all, the library’s worth, as the poet Ted Hughes put it, 
resides in being able to sit ‘with the genius of the Earth’ 
whilst being able to ‘turn the key to the whole world’ 
(Hughes, 1998). 

IT and the public library: financial and ethical 

Although the popular image of a library is that of a book- 
based service, electronic systems increasingly undermine 
the centrality of the book and frequently replace it. The 
public has a well-established belief in the free provision of 
books and the free reference to them in national or spe- 
cialist libraries. There is the feeling, however, that other 
services, such as the loan of videos and software, should 
entail some form of charging. If a charge is not made for 
the borrowing of non-book media, the fear is that funds will 
not be available for purchasing books. In an IT age, the 
dilemma for the library service is how to cater for both 
traditional and new services: how to keep the book col- 
lection up to date whilst accommodating the expansion of 
computer or video-based facilities. 

Whereas the UK academic network was established to 
facilitate electronic information transmission, no such in- 
frastructure exists for public services. Thus the public li- 
brary has generally been slower to engage in new IT than 
academic libraries. However, there are four areas where 
computer-based systems occur in a typical civic library 
(ASLIB, 1995, p. 76): 

• electronic databases which integrate information from 

different sources providing a multimedia interface 


Impact of new information technology 

New and old technolo- 
gies integrated into 
Malmo Public Library 
using Gresswell- 
designed furniture and 
shelving. (Gresswell 

• electronic databases of specialist reference material 

(historic photographs, plans) 

• access for the disabled to special electronic information 

or reading systems 

• access to the Internet. 

As a result of these innovations, the public library has had to 
adjust its budget allocations, its space and the training of 
staff to provide an effective IT service. The library is no 
longer seen as exclusively a book repository but a building 
that caters for different information media. Library staff too 
need to manage the wealth of information rather than store 
it. The library, as a building, is having to reassess its role in 
a computer age in ways which bring in new readers without 
alienating old ones (Association for Information Manage- 
ment, 1995, p. 78; Follett, 1993). The library will in effect 
exist to serve two parallel technologies — paper and elec- 
tronic — each with their body of users. These parallel worlds 
are increasingly integrated within the physical space of the 
building and bridged by the expertise of library staff. 

The integration of physical and electronic data is im- 
portant to avoid a kind of library apartheid where distinct 
worlds exist for those with IT skills and those without. 
Information technology is a major liberator and source of 
knowledge, but also a significant barrier for those who are 
not computer-literate. 

Besides the general benefits of IT systems, they also 
allow the public library to cater more effectively for life- 
long learning. Independent education and training (that 
which occurs before or after student years) is dependent 
upon a well-resourced public library. This is particularly true 

in the knowledge industries where many of the journal (and 
increasingly book) sources are published electronically. 
Updating skills throughout one’s working life requires the 
support of appropriately designed and equipped libraries. 
Not only is interface needed between traditional and elec- 
tronic systems, but between home IT and library IT ones. 

Multimedia will provide the means of interaction in the 
future — electronic systems will erode both space and dis- 
tance as limiting concepts. However, they will not in- 
validate the library as a building for social interaction or 
a place where users, library staff and stock interface. 
Neither will the electronic library destroy the need for 
tranquil internal space: in fact the computer-based library 
should offer a contrast from the bustle of city life or the 
private cloister of the home. As external distance is 
destroyed, there is more importance attached to the quality 
and dimensions of internal space. IT, whether integrated or 

Information technology trends relevant to libraries 

Increase in capacity and lowering of computer prices 

Increase in network capacity and lowering of transmission 

Fusion of various kinds of media (text, sound and 
pictures) on single compact discs 

PCs which act simultaneously as telephone, radio, TV 

Fusion of printer, fax, photocopier and scanner 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

accommodated as a separate suite, offers the library the 
means of its own liberation. 

There is a further sense in which the building matters, 
even in an electronic age. As words and information mi- 
grate to electronic text, it also glows in extent and access. 
The human mind cannot absorb this in its entirety and 
learns to accept fragments (Heim, 1993). The big mental 
picture upon which notions of wisdom are based is sacri- 
ficed in a kind of information overload. The library itself 
can remind readers that ‘facts’ are no substitute for 
‘meaning’, and that time must be set aside for reflection. 
The library as a space should, by its very design, engender 
a respect for the whole rather than isolated knowledge. 

Planning of library IT workstations 

Where workstations are dispersed throughout the library 
(as opposed to being grouped into an IT suite), their po- 
sition is critical in terms of user requirements. There are 
two distinct aspects to consider — social and technical. On 
the social front, the computer screen acts as a draw, usually 
bringing more than one user within its immediate orbit. 
Sometimes two or three people discuss the information on 
the screen at the same time. They may be assisting each 
other in navigating the highways available or evaluating 
the data (Drake, 1994, p. 64). Either way there is likely to 
be noise — both keyboard tapping and talking. Often too 
there is the trek to printers or to other workstations that 
could be engaged in similar pursuits. The sociability of 
computer stations is distracting to other readers and 
changes the whole culture of the library. Hence, worksta- 
tions need to be planned to facilitate use and interaction in 

a fashion which does not undermine the library as a place 
for quiet reading and reflection. 

There are two main strategies followed: either the po- 
sitioning of workstations in clusters where the noise can be 
controlled by the positioning of book stacks, etc. or their 
dispersal in the library on tables deliberately designed for 
single person use. Where the two are used in conjunction, 
there can be workstation provision which promotes the 
exchange of information but which can also, with a differ- 
ent layout, encourage private study. 

The technical problems are as taxing as the social ones. 
VDU screens act as mirrors reflecting light sources; this is 
tiring to the eyes and annoying for the user. VDUs should 
not, therefore, face windows or be beneath sources of arti- 
ficial or direct light. Where VDUs are near windows, the 
glare of natural light— especially sunlight— can be irritating. 
The answer is to place VDUs at right angles to windows and 
to ensure that nearby windows are protected by internal or 
external blinds (Drake, 1994, p. 65). Where placed on 
peninsulas arranged perpendicularly to the outside wall 
there is, however, the problem of exposing the cables and 
back of computers to view. The answer here is to arrange for 
computers to face outwards on double desks, so that users 
face each other divided perhaps by a low screen that can 
incorporate task lighting whilst also hiding the cabling. 

Computers and users create more heat than readers and 
books. The heating load of a person studying via a VDU is 
generally about twice that of a person employing only 
books. This excess heat will require extraction by natural or 
mechanical means. Opening windows is the traditional 
answer to high internal temperatures, but this is not usually 
possible in a library where theft is a perennial problem. The 

Computer noise leads to 
physical separation of IT 
suites as here at Putney 
Public Library. (Biddy 


Impact of new information technology 

solution is to employ fan-assisted ventilation or full air- 
conditioning in areas of intense computer provision. Where 
computers, people and artificial lighting come together the 
problem is not generally one of heating but cooling. 

The trend towards multimedia use in libraries has the 
added problem of acoustic control. Here voice and vision are 
equally important. Noise separation becomes as important as 
thermal control, adding to the complexity of provision. In- 
creasingly, audio-visual and multimedia facilities are placed 
in their own secure rooms where specific conditions can be 
most effectively met. However, the provision of rooms 
within libraries restricts flexibility of use and makes such 
space inefficient when new technologies are introduced. 
What is evident is that, whilst the fabric which houses the 
library changes at the same rate as library functions change, 
technology is usually the motor of library innovation. 

Noise, thermal control and the social use of space are 
interrelated factors in planning the layout of library 
workstations. The environmental conditions required often 
result in the use of raised floors to house ventilation ducts, 
IT cables and orthodox electricity supply. The trend, 
however, towards cableless IT does bring into question the 
concept of universal raised floors. Suspended ceilings are 
also frequently employed where both lighting and acoustic 
control are needed. A common dilemma relates to the use 

Learning Resource Centre, Sunderland University, 
designed by Building Design Partnership. (BDP) 

of the perimeter of the library for quiet study. Carrels po- 
sitioned against the building facade offer ideal conditions 
for book study, but poor conditions for use of VDUs. The 
usual solution where reading and IT facilities are integrated 
on the same floor is to zone the library into noisier ‘streets’, 
where issue desks, short loan, electronic catalogue, com- 
puter suites and printers are located almost as shops along 
a high street. This is the solution adopted in the extension 
to the Lancaster University Library (MacCormac Jamieson 
Pritchard, 1994). Beyond this central area are book stacks 
acting as visual and acoustic screens to the quieter non- 
intensive IT areas at the building perimeter. Such zoning 
requires not a universal architectural solution to environ- 
mental conditions but the planning of the library into parts, 
each with their own strategy for sound, thermal manage- 
ment, privacy and security. 

Computer areas 

All new libraries contain large areas devoted to the space 
and technology needs of IT provision. This may account 
for 40-50% of the floor area of a typical public library and 
possibly as much as 60% in a college or university one. 
Computer areas, known as ‘computer commons’ in the 
USA and generally as Teaming resource centres’ in the 
UK, normally contain a central well-lit (but excluding 
direct sunlight) space that is secure and supported by local 
networks which extend to other parts of the library or 
outreach beyond the building. Practice varies between 
types of library but all libraries now contain extensive IT 
facilities which, ideally at least, are integrated with paper- 
based collections. 

In computer areas desktop PCs are usually provided 
along with printers and scanners. However, students in 
university libraries and readers in public libraries now tend 
to come equipped with their own laptop and merely log 
onto the system. Shared computing facilities comple- 
mented by personal laptops usually makes the computer 
the first port of call in many libraries. When there exist 
adjacent meeting rooms, each with their own computer 
network and data projector, plus possibly training and 
support areas, the IT suites of a typical library have become 
the focus for infrastmcture investments. These are in 
fibre-optic and wireless systems, in new furniture needed 
for integrated study use (paper and digital media) and in 
support services from cafes to media shops. In under 
a generation the library has become a media centre with an 
information agora at its centre (Neuman, 2003). 

Learning spaces in libraries 

Post-occupation studies of public and academic libraries 
have highlighted the extent to which users employ the 
library for IT-based informal and sometimes formal 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

The computer-based 
catalogue and the study 
collection should be 
placed in close proximity. 
Cambridge University 
Library. (Forster 

learning. Where seminar rooms and lecture theatres are 
provided, there is an obvious overlap between library ac- 
tivities and educational ones. However, a great deal of 
casual teaching and learning takes place and this is some- 
times encouraged by providing informal spaces for 

socialized education. The blurring of education and library 
services within one building has been encouraged by 
a number of UK local councils. At Tower Hamlets in 
London a new generation of libraries known as ‘idea 
stores’ have been built which provide teaching and seminar 

Informal learning spaces 
and cafe area at the 
Saltire Centre, the new 
inter-active library at 
Glasgow Caledonia 
University, designed by 
BDP. Designed for 
wireless technology, the 
area encourages 
a range of learning 
methods to take place. 
(Brian Edwards) 


Impact of new information technology 

space for use by local schools, colleges and universities. A 
similar strategy has been followed in Hampshire in the 
Discovery Centres which, although primarily library-type 
buildings, provide also a range of group learning spaces 
and rooms for community use. 

To maximize the potential of these initiatives it is im- 
portant that the providers of libraries (whether public or 
academic) articulate a broader learning plan which in- 
cludes libraries rather than just a library strategy. The in- 
tegration of learning modes and spaces in the library is not 
without its own difficulties or cost consequences. It re- 
quires, for instance, changes to the planned technological 
infrastructure and space utilization and to the management 
of the library in terms of personnel and policy on opening 
hours, noise and refreshment facilities. However, if li- 
braries are to fulfil their full potential as hubs of knowledge 
storage and use, there are obvious overlaps with both the 
world of work and of education. 

Where the twentieth century library was mainly 
concerned with the acquisition and sharing of knowledge 
and ideas (through the loan mainly of books to registered 
readers), the twenty-first century library has somehow to 
support society’s needs for critical thought, creativity, 
skills in problem solving and the ability to articulate ideas 
clearly. From developing basic skills in language to using 
sophisticated modes of thought, the library has always 
supported the acquisition and application of knowledge. 
What makes today’s library different is not just the com- 
plexity of information modes and the richness of the 
knowledge base, but the speed with which old knowledge 
and technologies become obsolete. It means libraries need 
to stay flexible in their provision if they are to retain 
a central role in facilitating social, cultural and educational 

IT area at Sydney Jones Library, University of Liver- 
pool, designed by Shepheard Epstein Hunter. (Brian 

One key area where the library looks set to expand its 
influence is in e-learning. Here facilities in the library (both 
public and academic) have a key role to play in bridging 
between the home and college. The full potential of 
e-learning to transform the educational landscape at 
school, college and university level could be released if 
libraries provided more facilities for interfacing between 
IT and mobile technologies. The latter are the main vehi- 
cles of communication employed by 15—24 year olds yet 
many libraries prohibit the use of mobile phones. Future 
changes in educational technologies will undoubtedly 
impact upon the library but, rather than adapt to change, 
libraries could be at the cutting edge of evolution. 


ASLIB (1995). Review of the Public Library Service in England 
and Wales. Association for Information Management, 
pp. 76-78. 

Drake, P. (1994). Eternal values and changing technologies. In 
Building Libraries for the Information Age. Institute of 
Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS), York. 

Follett, B. (1993). The Follett Report on libraries for the HEFCE, 
SHEFC, HEFCW and DENI, Joint Funding Council’s 
Libraries Review Group. (This report paved the way for the 
changes to academic libraries which helped fashion the new 
generation of public libraries in the UK.) 

Ford, J. (1994). The intelligent library: a supplier’s viewpoint. In 
Building Libraries for the Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). 
Proceedings of a symposium held in York, 11—12 April 1994, 
pp. 64—65. Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies 

Heim, M. (1993). The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality. Oxford 
University Press. (The quote is a paraphrase.) 

Hughes, T. (1998). An introductory verse to new library. Quarto, 
No. 4, Autumn, p. 2. ( Quarto is the newsletter of the National 
Library of Scotland.) 

MacCormac Jamieson Pritchard (1994). Lancaster University 
Library extension and the Ruskin Library. In Building Libraries 
for the Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). Proceedings of 
a symposium held in York 11—12 April, 1994. Institute of 
Advanced Architectural Studies, (IAAS). 

Neuman, D. (2003). College and University Facilities. John 
Wiley and Sons, London. 

Whitehead, G. K. (1994). The library of the future: global 
information highways in the information age. In Building 
Libraries for the Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). Proceedings 
of a symposium held York, 11—12 April 1994. Institute of 
Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS). 

Worthington, J. (1994). Planning the virtual library. Architects 
Journal, 18 August, pp. 24—25. 

Worthington, J. (1994). Preface: planning the virtual library. In 
Building Libraries for the Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). 
Proceedings of a symposium held York, 11—12 April 1994. 
Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS). 


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Technical factors and engineering 

Environmental sustainability and the library 

Like all public buildings, libraries have a major impact on 
the environment. This extends from the energy used for 
heating, lighting and ventilation to energy consumed via 
computers and in transport reaching the building. In addi- 
tion, a large amount of water is consumed and libraries 
have an impact on biodiversity via the materials used in 
construction. The subject of sustainable design is a broad 
one but in the context of libraries there are a number of 
factors to consider at the briefing, design and operational 
levels, which are discussed in this chapter. 

Energy usage 

To heat, light and ventilate buildings consumes around 45— 
50% of global energy consumption. Most of this energy is 
normally in the form of fossil fuels. Added to this, libraries 
consume additional energy in providing the power for 
computers and other forms of multimedia. To achieve 
a low carbon footprint, the architect needs to maximize 
daylight and opportunities for natural ventilation, exploit 
solar energy for winter-time heating and summer-time 
stack effect cooling, control excessive solar gains and in- 
ternal glare, and employ construction materials which have 
low embodied energy. To achieve the latter, it is usually 
advisable to source materials and products locally since 
this uses less transport energy (the main component of 
embodied energy for heavy materials). 

Energy conservation can also be achieved by ensuring 
the building is well insulated, air-tight in construction, and 
uses such things as sensors to prevent artificial lights being 
employed when there is nobody present. High thermal 
mass also helps reduce energy consumption though the 
effects of transparency sought elsewhere for aesthetic 
delight can undermine this. However, much can be 
achieved at little or no extra cost. By simply reducing the 
footprint of the building to the dimensions needed for 
natural light to penetrate the full depth of the interior can 

achieve considerable energy savings. Similarly the 
employment of atria can help with energy efficiency es- 
pecially in larger libraries and these sunlit spaces can 
provide social and way-finding benefits. Also the reduction 
of the surface area to internal volume ratio can deliver 
further energy savings (and hence carbon emissions). 
However, the nature of libraries can limit the opportunity 
for sustainable design. The book-stack area is normally 
deep in plan and lit by electric light, and rare book and map 
collections require specific conditions for their conserva- 
tion. But within these constraints efficiencies can be 
achieved by, for instance, reducing background light levels 
and employing task lighting at desks. 

It may be possible to zone larger libraries into: areas 
which can be naturally ventilated; those which need to 
utilize mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning; and 
those areas which could operate on mixed-mode cycles. 
The latter employing night-time cooling would be suitable 
in parts of the library where strict air quality requirements 
are not needed, such as staff rooms and in the general book- 
stack collections. However, in IT areas the workplace 
standards normally prohibit natural light and ventilation. 
Security of stock and equipment also poses a limit to the 
degree of permeability of the building’s fabric. 

Libraries are particularly dependent upon electrical 
energy. It is needed for lighting and to power compu- 
ters, surveillance and security equipment, lifts and air- 
conditioning. As about a half of all energy consumption 
worldwide goes into constructing and servicing build- 
ings, libraries have their part to play in achieving more 
sustainable practice. Libraries, with their high electricity 
consumption, pose a particular problem as electrical 
energy is relatively inefficient per unit of delivered 
energy compared with oil or gas. For every unit of 
electricity, about twice as much carbon dioxide pollution 
is generated for the same unit of energy delivered via 
gas or oil. 

There are three important energy conservation practices 
to follow in the library: 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

• to reduce energy demand by utilizing sound environ- 
mental design practices (high insulation, passive solar 
ventilation, etc.) 

• to exploit renewable energy sources to maximize natural 
light and ventilation and, where appropriate, to generate 
electrical power directly from the sun (using photovol- 
taics) and the wind (using microgenerators) 

• to reduce energy use in the operation of the building by 
using low-energy lamps, lighting sensors, computer cut- 
off systems and task lighting for key tasks. 

The library should be designed as a closed system whereby 
energy by-products from one area become the energy input 
for another. For instance, heat recovery technology allows 
waste heat to be recycled — cutting down on initial demand. 
Similarly, the heat emitted from computers and lights can 
become an important source of heating or ventilation if the 
section of the building allows for passive solar or assisted 
stack effect ventilation. Since libraries are particularly 
dependent upon electricity for their operation, energy can 
also be generated at the building exploiting emerging 
technologies such as photovoltaic s. Effective energy con- 
sumption requires the client, designer and operator of the 
library to share responsibility. There may be some addi- 
tional cost, perhaps 2—5% above normal budgets, but since 
libraries are amongst the longest surviving building types, 
sustainable design will give long-term benefit through 
lower exposure to environmental problems in the future. 
Since libraries are visited by people in pursuit of knowl- 
edge or leisure, they can also act as a useful demonstration 
of good environmental practice: the building as well as the 
books it contains can teach the message of sustainability. 

There is considerable regional variation in the low- 
energy strategies that need to be employed. In the cold 
north, passive solar gain may be useful for seasonal 
heating, but in the warm south the problem will be one of 
preventing overheating. This is often exacerbated by the 
accidental heat gains which flow from lights, computers 
and people. So whilst solar aperture is desirable where heat 
gain is needed, protection from direct sunlight is impera- 
tive. Even where solar heat gains are undesirable, the sun’s 
energy can still be exploited to drive natural ventilation 
systems (especially when wind towers are incorporated) 
and thus reduce or eliminate the need for environmentally 
damaging air-conditioning. 

With low-energy design, it is important to consider the 
different needs of people and books. The temperature and 
humidity standards for each vary and, in hot dry climates, 
the tolerances for book conservation can be stricter than 
those for human comfort and computer use. Whereas 
people prefer contact with direct sunlight and can accept 
some variety in ambient temperature, the same is not true 
of books (especially rare ones). A highly glazed building 
may be welcoming and attractive to use, but as a library it 
will undoubtedly be costly to heat and ventilate and may 

damage the book collection and make computer operation 

Indoor air quality 

Related to energy consumption is the question of air quality 
and internal ambiance. A healthy library environment is 
obviously needed by all but sometimes the interests of 
energy efficiency can undermine the quality of light and air 
within the building. People tend to like daylight and natural 
ventilation so every effort should be made to maximize their 
presence in the library. Air quality is affected also by the 
materials used for finishes, especially their surface treat- 
ment. Natural materials provide healthier working envi- 
ronments than those where a great deal of paint, lacquer and 
artificial fibres are employed. Man-made synthetic mate- 
rials such as carpets and floor tiles should also be avoided in 
spite of their benefits elsewhere (e.g. noise control). 

Indoor air quality is also related to external conditions. 
The choice of site, orientation and position of the building 
can greatly influence internal conditions. The relationship 
between the internal and external environments should be 
considered at the briefing stage so that the working con- 
ditions for library staff and users are considered early in 
design preparation. 

Green travel plan 

The site chosen for the library has a significant impact upon 
the amount of energy consumed by those using the building. 
Since about 25% of global energy use is related to transport, 
decisions affecting the location of the library are important. 
First, the building should be well served by public transport 
and this needs to be available during the opening hours of 
the library. Hence libraries should be centrally located, 
preferably adjacent to bus, tram and railway stops. Where 
they are not the routes from the bus or train stop to the 
library should be visible and legible. 

Since many people choose to walk to the library, their 
needs should take priority over those using wheels. Too 
often pedestrians have the spaces left over after everybody 
else has taken a slice of the urban landscape. Their routes 
are often obstructed by barriers, used only with the help of 
traffic lights or urban tunnels, sometimes poorly lit and 
dangerous. People will only choose to walk to libraries if 
the routes are designed for pedestrians, i.e. attractive and 
tree lined with seats every few yards. Many elderly people 
carrying their books and perhaps groceries are not able to 
sustain a lengthy journey on foot without periodic rests. 
Too rarely is the pedestrian put first and often the library 
car park has to be crossed to reach the public entrance. 

The cyclist also needs to be accommodated. Again, safe 
cycle routes to the library are required and secure storage 
of bicycles is needed but rarely provided. Cyclists also 
need showers and changing rooms on arrival. The needs of 


Technical factors and engineering design 

car users, whether staff of readers, generally absorb what 
investment is needed in wider access provision. The ability 
of the library to help deliver a green travel plan is de- 
pendent upon fresh thinking by both building clients and 
their designers. The brief is the place to provide the 
framework for sustainable thinking. 

Water conservation 

Libraries have the ability to capture their own rainwater for 
use in flushing toilets and in irrigated landscape areas. The 
large flat roofs of typical library buildings provide an op- 
portunity to direct the water into roof tanks where it can 
then be fed by gravity to the various toilets in the building. 
With climate change water is becoming an issue in many 
regions of the world yet libraries rarely incorporate fea- 
tures in their design to conserve water stocks. As a result 
potable water is used for the relatively low grade tasks 
listed earlier. 

Water can also be conserved by employing spray taps, 
self-closing taps and low-flush toilets. Here the benefits are 
threefold. First, the cost of utilities is reduced (thereby 
saving money for use on other library services). Second, 
water can be conserved for other more essential purposes 
such as drinking, cooking and agricultural irrigation. Third, 
the use of water conserving apparatus can help educate the 
public into practices they should be using in the home or 
workplace. However, since libraries are urban buildings, 
the opportunity to recycle water is limited. Water is used 
typically in sanitation, heating and sprinkler systems. The 
water arrives in a potable state and leaves polluted. On-site 
treatment of low-level polluted water (grey water) via 
reed-beds is not usually possible, nor is local catchment of 
water to reduce the scale of importation. However, in 
regions of the world where water is scarce, roof catchment 
may be possible and local water treatment with recycling 

As with energy conservation, the approach to follow is 
site catchment, efficient use, recycling and recovery. Water 
conservation sets an example which is generally more 
visible than with energy conservation. It is also important 
to use localized valves and water metering to help educate 
library staff about the importance of water conservation. In 
many parts of the world water is a scarcer resource than 
energy (or more critical in terms of building performance). 
In hot climates, wastewater should at least be recycled for 

irrigation and perhaps also (after purification) for evapo- 
rative cooling of the library itself. 


The choices architects make in the selection of construc- 
tion materials and finishes has a large impact upon local 
and international biodiversity. By bulk around 60% of 
global raw materials end up in the construction industry. 
The impacts are on rainforests (for structural timber and 
veneers), mountain ranges (crushed aggregates and build- 
ing stones), natural riverbed deposits (sand and clay), 
remote regions (ores for steel, copper, lead) and farmed 
animals (sheep wool for carpets, etc.). Libraries are long- 
lived buildings where the initial impacts can serve society 
well over generations as long as the initial choices are in- 
telligently made. Generally it is better to choose materials 
with a low ecological footprint. This can be achieved by 
using locally sourced products where the supply chain is 
easier to monitor and impacts are nearby rather than further 
afield. Second, by using recycled materials or construction 
products which lend themselves to reuse (in whole or part), 
the ecological damage can be reduced. 

Biodiversity can also be addressed at the level of land- 
scape design. The linking of the library into the local 
landscape, providing ecological richness through the 
choice and extent of planting, the creation of sheltered and 
safe areas for people and wildlife alike can all benefit 
biodiversity. Also the minimalization of waste both during 
the construction phase and once the building is in use can 
also reduce the environmental footprint of the library. Here 
facilities for waste recycling by library users and staff can 
be beneficial. 

Since libraries consume a large amount of resources in 
construction (stone, steel, concrete, glass) and in operation 
(energy, water, carpets, paper) it is useful to consider their 
recycling potential as well as their wider environmental 
impact. Some resources are renewable (timber), others not 
(stone); some are recyclable (steel), others not (concrete); 
some resources also become contaminated by library use 
(air) and others require global ecosystems to assist in 
purification (water). Library buildings can be seen as en- 
vironmental systems with inputs and outputs. 

The scale and location of environmental impacts vary 
according to the nature of the construction material. With 
stone or concrete there are significant landscape and 






OUTPUTS Environmental impact of a typical 

library. (Brian Edwards) 



Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

transport impacts; with steel or aluminium there are im- 
pacts upon air and water quality at the works, foundry or 
smelter; with paper, there are impacts at the mill and in the 
forests. In the UK, each person accounts for about six 
tonnes of building material use annually (DETR, 1999) — 
some of this ending up in the construction of libraries. 
Energy is needed to extract and transport this material 
(the embodied energy in a typical brick will, if converted to 
petrol, drive a family car up to 7 miles), water is used in 
much manufacture of building components (plasterboard, 
concrete tiles) and raw materials are used non-renewably. 
Like other public buildings, libraries have a significant 
impact on global ecosystems, both directly and indirectly. 
For example, the timber used in construction or furniture 
may have derived from a distant rainforest or a local wood. 
Paper (of which libraries are great consumers) has a chain 
of impacts from manufacture to use and reuse. 

There are four principles to follow with regard to 
reducing the impact of resource use at libraries: 

• source heavyweight construction materials locally to reduce 
transport energy costs and general environmental 

• source lightweight materials globally but ensure that over- 
seas companies follow sound environmental practices 
(look for local eco-labelling or eco-auditing schemes) 

• design for reuse or recycling of elements of construction 

• design the library so that it can readily adapt to future 

Most libraries worldwide were planned and constructed by 
previous generations. We inherit libraries and add to the 
global stock. The libraries designed and built today become 
the resources for future generations — our buildings in this 
sense are part of society’s cultural and operational capital. 
The way we design and construct today’s libraries shapes 
the options available for meeting the needs of future gen- 
erations. It is only in making them environmentally re- 
sponsive that they will fully serve the changing social and 
sustainable agendas of the future. 

Recycling and waste 

It is important that the library buildings, their components, 
systems and materials are capable of adaptation, reuse and 
recycling. Each element from the whole to the smallest 
construction part should be capable of being recycled. 
Reuse to serve a new function is preferable to recycling 
because it involves less material change. But recycling is 
preferable to waste — a material of no social or environ- 
mental value whose disposal will eat into the library’s 
operational budget and add to landfill problems. 

The outputs from a building vary according to the nature 
of the inputs and their conversion. Burning oil to provide 
heat or energy also produces CO 2 (carbon dioxide — 

‘Green’ Library and Learning Resource Centre at 
Sunderland University. Designed by Building Design 
Partnership. (M Hamilton-Knight) 

a major greenhouse gas) and other toxic emissions (e.g. 
SO 2 — the main pollutant in acid rain). Materials such as 
carpets, furnishing and finishes may give off gases such as 
volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and NO x (nitrogen 
oxides) and may have involved the use of ozone-depleting 
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in manufacture. These wastes 
often have a damaging impact upon global or human 
health. Since a person in Europe typically spends 80-90% 
of their time indoors (some of which is spent in public 
buildings such as libraries), the impact upon health and the 
sense of physical well-being are important. 

The relationship between plan depth, 
book-stack position and glazing 

The book stacks provide a convenient heat sink which can 
be used to moderate temperatures in the library. The 
thermal capacity of the books evens out peaks and troughs 
in temperature — a particular advantage with low-energy 
designs. Where narrow configurations in plan are 
employed, the relationship between orientation, glazed 
area, building depth and building fabric is critical. Ideally, 
the book stacks are centrally placed with readers around the 
building perimeter. This arrangement provides advanta- 
geous conditions for the reader (daylight, view) and the 
best conditions for books and computers (glare-free, sun- 


Technical factors and engineering design 

shaded). Without the employment of deep plans, there is 
little justification except in special areas for either air- 
conditioning or suspended ceilings. 

Where the library has a southerly orientation, the book 
stacks can be placed against the south wall with clerestory 
lights above. This allows the stacks to act as solar shading, 
reducing the problems of both heat gain and glare else- 
where in the library. With a northerly aspect, the opposite 
strategy should be employed. Here, for maximum sun- 
free daylight penetration, the stacks should be placed 
towards the centre or back of the library. Light-shelves can 
also be employed to deflect daylight deep into the library. 
So whereas the southern library facade has only limited 
glazing, the northern one is fully glazed. Since readers 
do not like sitting in direct sunlight, it is on the northern 
side of the library that desks and workstations are 
normally located. A sustainable library is one which has 
distinctive elevations according to orientation and a corre- 
sponding layout of desks, stacks and computers according 
to aspect. 

In low-energy design, it is commonplace for lighting, 
heating, ventilation, plan depth and sectional arrangement 
to be considered as a series of connected issues. The design 
philosophy should be robust enough to engineer solutions 
that are mutually compatible. The light-shelves for in- 
stance can double up as solar shades and incorporate air 
supply grilles, which connect in turn to ducts placed within 
floors or internal partitions. Artificial light is best provided 
by a combination of low-level overall illumination and task 
lighting at desks. Glazing systems can incorporate internal 
uplighters and have sensors that detect movement in the 
room (useful for security and energy conservation). Since 
nearly 40% of all energy use in modem libraries is asso- 
ciated with lighting, this is the area where economies have 
greatest impact. Four simple, cost-effective lighting strat- 
egies are to: 

• maximize the use of daylight by avoiding plan depths 
greater than 15m 

• employ atria to introduce natural light and ventilation 
into deep-planned areas 

• use task lighting generally and to avoid light flooding 
except in selected areas (library counter, corridors) 

• use low-energy light sources. 

There is a growing tendency to employ solar-assisted 
ventilation in libraries. Atrium spaces provide the motor to 
move air naturally around the building, perhaps aided by 
solar chimneys. Natural ventilation and natural light ben- 
efit from the atrium concept, but there are two obstacles in 
the library that limit the universal application of atrium- 
based solutions. The first is the problem of noise, especially 
in academic or research libraries. Group working by 
students can cause widespread disturbance in the open- 
plan, atrium-centred library. The need for interconnected 
spaces (necessary for air movement) provides the channel 
for the transmission of noise. The second problem is one of 
walls and the book stacks themselves. For natural venti- 
lation to be effective, there should be the minimum of 
obstruction to airflow. Where walls are necessary, these 
should not rise to the ceiling and, for such libraries to be 

This library addresses sustainability to create a lively 
display of shading sails on the fagade. Phoenix Public 
Library by Will Bruder. (Andrew North) 

Rooftop conservatory and conference suite at 
Chicago Public Library allows for environmental 
moderation of building. (Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

successful as low-energy buildings, the ceiling heights 
themselves should generally be fairly high (at least 3.5 m). 
This adds to construction costs and can offset the gains in 
energy efficiency. Airflow, acoustic separation, flexibility 
and simplicity of control are key components of the sus- 
tainable library (Long, 1995). 

Options for lighting 

Lighting is important for comfort, safety, legibility and 
energy efficiency. Working areas need to have good con- 
ditions for reading or screen use. Circulation areas need to 
be well-lit with pools of light employed to guide users 
around the library. Lighting also needs to be carefully 
considered in the energy strategy because, in large librar- 
ies, energy consumption as a result of artificial lighting 
often exceeds that of heating. The most immediate benefit 
is gained by exploiting natural light to its limits as opposed 
to employing artificial light. However, there are both di- 
mensional and technical constraints in doing this. As 
a general rule, working areas should not be further than 7 m 
from a window — this results in a maximum plan depth of 
14 m or 15 m with a central corridor or open passageway. 
Where libraries require deeper plans, the daylight should 

Combined daylight canopy and shading screen used 
at the Law Library, University of Cambridge. Designed 
by Foster and Partners. (Dennis GilbertA/iew) 

Daylight and security screens used at Hirata Public 
Library, Japan. Note the use of trees to provide further 
solar shading. (Teramoto Architects) 

be introduced into the core via lightwells, atria or roof 
glazing. Hence, as the user moves through the depth of the 
building a deep library will normally have a sequence of 
solid and ceiling glazed sections. 

Two design strategies are normally employed to maxi- 
mize daylight penetration: to use high ceilings (3-4 m 


Section of interior daylight and security screen at 
Hirata Public Library, Japan. (Teramoto Architects) 


Technical factors and engineering design 

high) and to incorporate light-shelves into the external 
glazing or cladding system. Light-shelves and louvres for 
solar control are frequently combined into a single system — 
the light-shelves are needed to bounce daylight back into 
the interior and the louvres are employed to provide glare- 
free working conditions at the building perimeter. There 
are benefits in relating lighting and ventilation design: the 
high ceilings also aid passive ventilation and often allow 
the building fabric (normally concrete columns and 
beams) to be exposed (which assists passive cooling). Tall 
ceilings also provide space for high-level windows which 
can be opened mechanically with building management 
systems. High opening lights reduce the problem of theft 
or vandalism and ensure that draughts do not occur at desk 

Lighting is also substantially a question of artificial 
light. The 24-hour access library has major consequences 
for energy efficiency. The use of artificial lighting adds to 
heat gain and hence ventilation requirements. Night-time 
cooling will not occur at the same rate when lights are left 
on. Hence the importance of employing energy efficient 
light sources (such as compact fluorescent lamps) which, 
by using less energy for the same level of illumination, 
release less heat into the environment. Light sensors may 
also be employed (e.g. infra-red detection) which activate 
the lights according to occupation. This is particularly 
useful in cellular office areas but could be employed more 
widely in areas of the library subject to occasional use. 
Solar cells can also be employed to regulate the level of 
illumination according to daylight conditions. 

The naturally ventilated atrium at The Queens Library, 
Anglia Polytechnic University. Designed by ECD Ar- 
chitects. (Anglia Polytechnic University) 

Options for ventilation 

There are three main options in terms of library ventilation: 

• natural ventilation 

• mechanical ventilation 

• full air-conditioning. 

The first requires a shallow building depth, an open-plan 
design and predominantly open section. If the library is 
large, the building needs to be fairly high (at least three 
storeys) and would normally include lofty atria. The 
building fabric will also assist cooling and the glazing area 
(including orientation) needs to be carefully considered. 
Being open plan and of fluid section such libraries can 
suffer from noise transmission problems. Future adapt- 
ability can also be compromised by the need to maintain 
the building’s essential openness. 

Mechanical ventilation offers greater choice of plan 
depth, sectional arrangement and interior subdivision. Air 
is moved through the library via fans and ducts, leading 

Low-energy library which maximizes daylight and 
natural ventilation. University of Hertfordshire Library, 
designed by Architects Co. Partnership. (Forster 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

inevitably to floor area being sacrificed for plant rooms and 
service routes. Sometimes mechanical ventilation uses the 
concept of ‘comfort cooling’ whereby the thermal mass of 
the structure assists with moderating temperature. Here 
a variety of passive and active systems are combined, 
depending upon the need for fresh air in different zones of 
the library. With mechanical ventilation it is normal 
practice to employ heat recovery technology in order to 
conserve energy. 

Full air-conditioning requires a totally sealed building 
and thus separates internal conditions entirely from those 
in the external environment. It is usually employed in large 
libraries (national libraries and major academic ones) and 
in locations where outside conditions are extreme (partic- 
ularly hot or cold climates). Air-conditioning allows the 
building to be of any shape or size, and to be practically of 
any form of construction. The main price paid for this 
convenience is the large areas lost due to duct runs and 
building plant, and the cost of operating and servicing such 
buildings. Air-conditioned libraries are not unlike four- 
wheel drive vehicles — they give the library high perfor- 
mance under difficult conditions but at an environmental 
and financial cost. 

In many modern libraries no single system is used. In- 
stead there are combinations of natural and mechanical 
ventilation, and of mechanical ventilation with full air- 
conditioning in special areas. The density of occupation 
and the type of library collection or equipment stored in 
a particular part of the building determines the ventilation 
strategy. Even the ‘greenest’ of libraries may have air- 
conditioning in photocopying or archive areas. For the 
architect and engineer, the choice of system depends upon 
five variables: 

• the level of people occupancy in different parts of the 

• the vulnerability of the collection to changes in temper- 
ature or humidity 

• the diversity of equipment (copiers, computers, printers) 
and attendant pollution levels 

• the need for zoning to allow for extended opening in 
particular areas 

• the arrangements for fire escape and smoke extraction. 

The trend towards the 24-hour access library limits the 
options available. Natural ventilation is normally de- 
pendent upon night-time cooling. This will not occur if the 
library is open all night with the lights on. With all-night 
opening, only parts of the library are usually accessible and 
a different heating and ventilation will be required here. As 
a result, the modem library is more likely to be a hybrid of 
systems rather than a thoroughbred — with each area being 
as lean, flexible and efficient as conditions allow. 

The air-conditioned library 

The air-conditioned library offers flexibility of layout but at 
a price. Such libraries are often stifling environments with 
background fan noise, which can be distracting. Although 
temperature and humidity may be carefully controlled to 
suit both the reader and the collection, the working envi- 
ronment may feel stuffy and lifeless. In order to avoid 
fluctuations in temperature, air-conditioned libraries are 
normally relatively windowless and often of deep plan in 
order to place as much of the library as possible away from 
external conditions. Without large windows and pools of 
natural light, it is not easy to identify routes, staircases or 



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Environmental strategy at 
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Technical factors and engineering design 

The University of Abertay Library, designed by the Parr Partnership, uses exposed concrete columns, solar screens 
and double fagades to conserve energy. (The Parr Partnership) 

use hierarchies. And without slight fluctuations in temper- 
ature, light and humidity, the reader can easily feel drowsy. 

Typical of air-conditioned libraries is the one constructed 
at the University of Exeter in 1983. It follows closely the 
pattern common at the time and widely advocated by the 
University Grant Commission (which at the time funded 
academic libraries). The library is three storeys high and 
partly built beneath the ground. The plan is nearly square 
and about 40 m across. The main staircase is placed close to 
the centre and hence has no natural light. The entrance at 
first floor level leads to a deep, rather gloomy library en- 
trance surrounded by book stacks, with seats hidden beyond 
in a perimeter reading area alongside the narrow slot win- 
dows. Lighting, temperature and ambience are consistent 

throughout the library — irrespective of the proximity in plan 
or section to the building periphery. Readers have, there- 
fore, no escape from the ‘ideal’ conditions imposed upon 
every quarter. There is nowhere to work in sunlight, no 
space where currents of air pass naturally by and no 
greenery to view except through narrow windows. The 
banks of book stacks are bathed in fluorescent light which 
shines down from the remorseless grid of suspended ceil- 
ings. The reader is not conscious of natural light at all — 
though perimeter carrels are each lit by a tall deeply set 

The library relies upon air-conditioning whose fans 
can be heard working tirelessly away from within much 
of the library. It is a background noise which allows 

Changing environmental strategies in the design of libraries 

Time period 



18 th century 

Natural light, shallow plan 

Natural ventilation, perimeter windows 

19 th century 

Natural light, roof-lit deep plan 

Natural ventilation, perimeter and roof cross-ventilation 

20 th century 

Artificial light, deep plan 

Air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation 

21 st century 

Natural light, roof-lit, light-shelves 

Natural ventilation, mixed-mode with solar chimneys 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

conversation to be absorbed within its decibels. From the 
outside, the library is forbidding in its deep purple-brown 
brick box with ‘ill-proportioned rows of little windows’ 
(Cherry and Pevsner, 1989). A bridge at first floor level 
identifies the point of entrance, which is otherwise un- 
derstated as both an external and internal spectacle. The 
library is cruelly described as ‘extremely ugly’ in the 
Buildings of England: Devon series (Cherry and Pevsner, 
1989) — a description whose roots can be attributed to the 
decision to employ air-conditioning. Certainly, air-con- 
ditioning allowed the deep plan, shallow height, win- 
dowless configuration to come into being. The library at 
Exeter University is a warning against relying upon 
excessive engineering to temper the interior environment. 
The high theoretical level of flexibility provided by 
air-conditioning has been at the price of comfort and 
stimulation for readers and staff. 

The problem with the air-conditioned library is not 
so much the energy consumption involved, the high 
maintenance costs or the inherent inflexibility of highly 
engineered structures, but the unresponsiveness of the 
resulting environment. Staff and readers are subject to 
stuffy windowless interiors and, where glazing occurs, it 
cannot be opened to let in external fresh air. No matter what 
the weather outside, the air-conditioned library is always at 
a fixed temperature and humidity. The regularity of such an 
environment may be good for books, journals, special 
collections and IT equipment, but it does not match human 
expectations so well. People require vitality and sparkle in 
their library, a place perhaps to read a book in full sunlight 
with an opening window nearby. The challenge for the li- 
brary designer is how to balance the optimum conditions 
for the collection with those of users and staff. 

In hot climates, air-conditioning is often unavoidable 
but libraries can incorporate external shading to 
reduce energy loads. Phoenix Public Library designed 
by Will Bruder. (Andrew North) 

Fagade shading at the University of Hertfordshire 
Library. Designed by Architects Co. Partnership. 
(Pippa Summers) 

Pollution from books 

Books are often a source of pollution: they bring dirt, 
germs and mites into the library as a result of use and es- 
pecially as a result of loan. Books and to a lesser extent 
journals require periodic cleaning. In tropical regions book 
contamination leads to mildew attack, especially where 
humid conditions occur. Mildew leads to permanent 
staining of the pages of the book and provides the condi- 
tions for mite attack. As a result there is greater pressure to 
air-condition libraries in tropical and sub-tropical countries 
than elsewhere. Commonly, however, library architects do 
not air-condition the whole space but zone the interior into 
air-conditioned areas and naturally lit, ventilated ones. This 
allows the benefit of both mechanical and natural ventila- 
tion to be combined — providing a mixed-mode building 
which has vitality and variety of environmental experience, 
e.g. the National Library of Sri Lanka designed by Michael 
Brawne. Here the books and journals are stored in the 
centre of an air-conditioned room, with the readers posi- 
tioned in naturally lit and ventilated areas around the 
library perimeter. It is a pattern adopted too by Ken Yeang 


Technical factors and engineering design 



L nmra 

The roof lights above the reading room at Linkoping Library, Sweden, designed by Nyrens Arkitektkontor animate 
the space whilst proving excellent environmental conditions for library users and staff. (Nyrens Arkitektkontor/AR) 

in the new national library of Singapore developed in 
collaboration with the building systems expert Professor 
Khee Poh Lam. 

Acoustic zoning of the library 

Old libraries were silent places; new ones ring to the 
sounds of chatter, opening program melodies, mobile 

Noise is an accepted part of the entrance areas of 

phone tunes and keyboard tapping. Nothing signifies the 
changes libraries have undergone in a generation more than 
the attitude to noise. Some libraries make a virtue of 
background noise, believing that it is an inevitable ex- 
pression of the life and productivity of the post-modern 
library. Others cling to the notion of silent areas where the 
spoken word is prohibited in pursuit of concentration, at 
least in parts of the building. 

The emphasis today is to have a gradation from silent to 
noisier areas. The role of architectural design is to help, 
through the distribution of walls and layout of floors, to 
reinforce the mangement’s policy on noise. It is better 
to establish through design the different noise zones than to 
rely upon signage or the nagging of library staff. Com- 
monly the lower floors permit the use of the spoken word 
and dialogue around computers. Similarly, the centres of 
libraries are normally noisier than the perimeter where the 
study desks are located. Between these conditions 
a number of noise level bands normally exist in larger li- 
braries with the position of book stacks and location of 
information desks providing definition of the various 
acoustic zones. 

One problem commonly encountered is that of noise 
travelling vertically through the library in the atria spaces 
which are increasingly employed for energy efficiency. 
Where double and triple height reading rooms are pro- 
vided the architect must employ secondary walls, screens 

The mass of the concrete frame and high levels of glazing provide good thermal and acoustic conditions for this 
library at the Open University designed by Swanke Hayden Connell Architects. (Swanke Hayden Connell) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

jjlumtnlum windtower 
with opening louvres 

Section of Brighton Public Library showing the key environmental features. The design successfully integrates 
a number of concerns from solar control to natural ventilation. (Bennetts Associates) 

or acoustic baffles to prevent the working environment 
from becoming unusable. As a rule of thumb, university 
libraries are more accepting of background noise than 
public libraries. But here there will be designated silent 

areas for individual study and silence is normally expected 
in research and professional libraries. However, the 
growth of group working by students in libraries means 
that certain floors are allocated for this noisier type of 


Technical factors and engineering design 

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CHS NMbirt with 

Section through fagade of the library at the Free University of Berlin, designed by Foster and Partners, showing the 
use of a double skin to deliver energy efficiency. By maximizing natural light and cross-ventilation, the library 
achieves good environmental standards. (Foster and Partners/AJ) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Natural ventilation strategy at Portsmouth University 
Library to designs by Penoye and Prasad. (Penoye 
and Prasad/AT) 

activity, especially as it normally entails the use of study 
material which is frequently multimedia in nature. The 
integration of paper and electronic media occurs also in 
public libraries and here there is increasing tolerance of 
noise by librarians. Generally speaking the larger the 
library space, the more acceptable is background noise 
but, conversely, the bigger the space the harder it is to 
design out unacceptable noises. 

The growing use of laptops and the expansion of mobile 
phones into the realm of education for many younger 
library users means that the architect must consider noise at 
the planning strategy stage. The aim is to isolate the areas 
which generate the most noise (staff rooms, photocopy 

points, control desks, group study or meeting rooms) 
through space planning. This is necessary in both plan and 
cross-section, since many disruptive noises have the habit 
of travelling diagonally through the building. 

Acoustic disruption also occurs around lifts, escalators 
and stairs. Fire protection will normally require these to be 
enclosed and this helps with noise control. However, when 
open stairs are employed the noise from foot traffic can be 
considerable unless soft finishes are employed. Using 
carpeting or cork floors and book stacks which include 
acoustic insulation can help achieve a background noise 
level of 40 decibels, even in open-plan libraries. However, 
in many city-centre libraries the main noise source is ex- 
ternal and here double or triple glazing may be required. 
Ultimately, the library which serves needs by using the 
minimum of resources, is the most sustainable over time. 


Cherry, B. and Pevsner, N. (1989). The Buildings of England: 

Devon, 2nd edn. Penguin, p. 406. 

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 
(DETR) (1999). Sustainable Construction: Opportunities for 
Change, HMSO, p. 7. 

Long, M. J. (1995). University of Brighton library: the 

development of a building type. In Building Libraries for the 
Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). Proceedings of a symposium 
held in York, 11—12 April 1994. Institute of Advanced 
Architectural Studies (IAAS). p. 72. 




Due to their longevity as a building type, libraries are 
subject to much stress to keep themselves up to date. New 
media and organizational demands require changes to the 
use of space and to the building fabric. Alteration to a li- 
brary is always a challenge and is resisted by two signifi- 
cant forces: the structure itself and the critical mass of the 
existing collection and the staff that service it. Managers, if 
they wish to implement effective change, need to address 
both sides of the equation with fortitude. 

Planning and adroit financial forecasting are essential to 
smooth renovation. Plans are needed to co-ordinate space 
usage and physical change needed to overcome obsoles- 
cence. Unlike the design of a new facility, renovation is 
often compromised by some unexpected occurrence: hence 
flexibility of outlook, action and resources is needed. 

Overcoming obsolescence in libraries 

Like all types of public buildings libraries are subject to the 
forces of obsolescence. However, with such a legacy of 
nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth century libraries, the 
problem is particularly acute into the twenty-first century. 
University libraries too are subject to the same forces of 
obsolescence though here the pressures are slightly different. 
The five main types of obsolescence are listed below. 

Functional obsolescence 

Here the building fails to perform its duties as a library. 
With changing expectations in both public and academic 
libraries, functional inadequacies are one of the main jus- 
tifications for either the demolition of existing buildings or 
their extensive remodelling. Sometimes new functions can 
be accommodated, such as WiFi installation, but often new 
ambitions for the wider social use of libraries are hard to 

Structural obsolescence 

Here the limitations imposed by the existing structure and 
fabric of the building cannot be readily overcome. This 
may relate to the structural capacity of floors, to the dis- 
tribution and quality of daylight and ventilation (a problem 

exacerbated by the growing use of computers in libraries), 
or to the position of loading-bearing walls. Structural 
change is both expensive and disruptive to the running of 
the library. 

Social obsolescence 

New expectations regarding the role of public buildings 
generally, and libraries in particular, have stressed many 
existing library facilities. Libraries often do not provide the 
architectural qualities and character required of today’s 
consumers who have been raised in the glitter of retail 
malls and the architectural glamour of buildings like Tate 
Modem. To many, older libraries are not buildings that 
they find attractive or intellectually engaging. The values 
carried in the design of existing libraries simply fail to 
connect with the cultural values of the twenty-first century. 

Locational obsolescence 

Here libraries are simply in the wrong place or located 
where access is difficult. The library may not be well 
connected to the existing web of local facilities or those on 
campus. There may have been changes in the provision of 
the civic functions, transport infrastmcture or commercial 
activities, which have resulted in the library being out on 
a limb. There may have been growth in traffic that has 
resulted in poor public access or excessive interior noise. 
On campus, new academic units may have pulled the 
centre of gravity away from the library. 

Environmental obsolescence 

This is a growing problem as society comes to terms with 
the concept of sustainable development and particularly 
global warming. The carbon footprint (the amount of 
energy consumed) is often large in libraries especially 
those built in the 1960s and 70s. Such libraries are gener- 
ally poorly insulated, have problems with solar gain 
(leading to the use of air-conditioning units), and provide 
poor conditions for reading or working on computer 
screens inside the building. With rising energy prices and 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Libraries are often designed as civic or campus 
landmarks and are not therefore easy to extend. Oslo 
Public Library. (Brian Edwards) 

growing environmental legislation, such libraries find 
themselves increasingly obsolete. 

As a result of these pressures, libraries are going through 
a period of structural alteration to meet new functional 
requirements and environmental standards, and internal 
makeovers to improve their image; and where re- 
furbishment is not possible there are extensive programmes 
for the erection of new buildings. The latter is occurring as 
a result of both local and central government initiatives, 
sometimes also triggered by an opportunity for wider urban 
regeneration. The latter can entail partnership with a large 
commercial developer such as the ‘idea store’ in London’s 
Whitechapel, developed in collaboration with the building 
of a Sainsbury’s store. New building should, however, only 
be employed when the options for refurbishment (perhaps 
entailing partial extension) have been exhausted. 

The pace of change has quickened over the past decade as 
libraries have had to adapt to the IT revolution. But change is 
not that erratic in nature: each generation is faced by new 
technologies, organizational theory or reader preferences. If 
the 1990s have been subject to the currents of a digital age, 
this is hardly different to the expansion in leisure time and 
reading in the 1960s, the use of libraries as employment 
information and social centres in the 1 930s, or to their earlier 
use as disseminators of mass knowledge through newspa- 
pers and journals around 1900. To argue that the modern 
library is witnessing unprecedented information stress is to 
misrepresent the path of history. Libraries have always had 
to adapt to survive: today’s pressures are simply the latest in 
an unfolding pattern of information change. 

Given that libraries have always had to adapt to serve 
changing social needs, there are three aspects to consider in 
parallel: two are architectural, the third is a question of 
management. These are: 

• space distribution 

• cabling and mechanical service distribution 

• staff resources (skills and personnel). 

Space is clearly pivotal since new functions and services 
require a redistribution of space. Extra rooms are some- 
times required, but often the answer is to use space more 
effectively. There are three key aspects to consider in the 
detailed allocation of library space: 

• equipment (electronic) and media (electronic and 
book-based) are getting smaller and more efficient 

• people are getting larger and more numerous 

• the amount of workspace equipment is growing 
whilst the workspace volume is declining. 

The library, like much of the world, is seeing space used 
more extensively. There are more people doing more 
things over a greater period of time, and using tools and 
equipment that are becoming ever smaller and more 
efficient. As people become larger and more numerous, 
they become collectively noisier and more demanding. 
The library in this sense moves towards greater stress, 
space syntax pollution (the relationship between the read- 
er’s personal space and shared space) and an ever-accel- 
erating pace of change. The task of the librarian and 
architect is to facilitate the necessary adjustments to allow 
the library to continue to operate whilst adapting to new 

Change occurs above and below ground — in the rooms 
and in the peripheral spaces which serve the rooms 
(suspended ceilings, ducts, raised floors). Every time 
a change in library technology occurs, there are corre- 
sponding adjustments necessary behind the scenes. For 
every change in the use of space in the library, a myriad of 
alterations are required — in cable layouts, furniture 
upgrading, lighting provision, closed circuit television 
(CCTV surveillance), etc. 

Cables provide the lifeblood for a modem library — 
electricity drives almost every service. It is needed for 
lighting, ventilation, lifts, hoists, telephones, computers, 
Internet access and much more. But cables come in different 
forms, have different requirements and pose different levels 
of risk. Traditional electronic ring mains (carrying in the 
UK 220-240 volts) drive much equipment and pose a risk of 
electromagnetic contamination. Cables and wires dissemi- 
nate electrical power throughout the library: some are 
substantial rope-like stmctures threaded through plastic 
conduits, others are flat bands serving only computer needs. 
The trend is towards fibre optic cabling which serves 
computer, telephone and TV needs concurrently. Fibre 
optics offer smaller, slimmer and more efficient cabling 
systems than metal wires. However, as cable space becomes 
more efficient the gains are offset by demand. 

Most modern libraries use a raised floor system that 
allows for almost unlimited flexibility of cable type and 



layout. The floor consists of panels that can be easily lifted to 
permit access to computing networks and traditional elec- 
trical supply without major disruption. The worst scenario 
for a library is to have to shut down all or part of its operations 
to facilitate change in the use of space (change which should 
have been anticipated at the design stage). With existing 
libraries, however, disruption is inevitable but, at each 
upgrading, it is necessary to build in greater long-term 
adaptability and not stifle it by inadequate alteration. 

Raised floors, circuit ducting and suspended ceilings 
together provide a flexible arrangement. Lighting, furniture 
and equipment can all be altered without significant stress 
to space or building fabric. Cables can sometimes be 
threaded through internal partitions in order to avoid the 
use of relatively expensive raised floor systems, but in large 
libraries cable lengths are such that partition systems are 
inadequate. Locking cable layouts and partitions into the 
same system also makes the library inherently inflexible in 
the use of space. The answer in existing libraries, espe- 
cially those with high ceilings, is to add a raised floor able 
to accommodate all services. 

Suspended ceilings are also a useful way of maintaining 
operational adaptability. Air-handling equipment can be 
placed in the ceiling void, providing a good distribution of 
ventilation allied with acoustic control and an even spread of 
artificial lighting. However, the trend is towards more sus- 
tainable design practice where greater use of natural light 
and ventilation is preferred. If left exposed, the floor slab 
construction can act as a useful thermal buffer and aesthetic 
device. When articulated into bays of concrete, steel or 
timber construction, the soffit of the ceiling aids naviga- 
tional direction to the library. The construction can therefore 
provide a visual grid to simultaneously accommodate 

Hirata Public Library is designed to allow the various 
subject wings to be adapted or extended without dis- 
rupting the whole. Design by Teramoto Architects. 
(Teramoto Architects) 

different book-stack layouts, provide orientation for the 
reader and moderate day and night-time temperatures. Thus 
the practice with existing libraries is to use the floor to 
distribute new cabling and other services rather than the 

Whichever method is employed, however, it is necessary 
to balance the requirements of space use in the long term 
with short-term benefits such as lower cost and tidy aes- 
thetics. Part of the equation involves an assessment of likely 
technological and environmental change — the agenda of 
sustainability and IT together make a powerful argument for 
building into the renovation of libraries the flexibility that 
was missing at the outset. Here the guidance outlined earlier 
for the design of new libraries should be used as the basis for 
upgrading older ones. There are five principles to follow in 
upgrading and renovating existing libraries: 

• Architectural structure is inherently inflexible and makes 
an important contribution to the character of the library. 
The basic structure should only be altered or obscured as 
a last resort. 

• Internal space cannot be altered without adjustment to 
lighting, ventilation, security and fire escape provision. 

• Upgrading should move towards greater operational 
flexibility, not limit choice later. 

• Sustainability should influence renovation in the design, 
construction and use of space. 

• It is generally cheaper to adapt than extend, and more 
cost-effective to adapt than demolish and rebuild. It 
may also be cheaper to adapt a non-library building 
(such as a church) into library use than build afresh. 

It is sometimes argued that IT cannot be cost-effectively 
insinuated into existing libraries. This is not the case: new 
technology can be effectively integrated into library build- 
ings of all ages. There may be a problem when the library is 
a listed or designated a landmark building — here internal 
change would be detrimental to the historic appearance or 
fabric of the building. There may also be a problem when 
ceiling heights are too low or the ventilation standards 
demanded by computer suites cannot be met. But these con- 
ditions are exceptions — in most nineteenth and twentieth 
century libraries renovation to accommodate both structural 
upgrading and the incorporation of new technology is rela- 
tively straightforward. Where a need cannot be met by internal 
adaptation, the answer is to extend to provide the specific 
quality of space and servicing required in the new wing. 

The problem of the listed library 

Libraries which are listed as being of special architectural 
or historic interest pose particular difficulties. It is in- 
cumbent upon all concerned — architects, interior de- 
signers, managers — to pressure the character and 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

A modern wing attached 
to Putney Public Library 
to accommodate IT. 
(Biddy Fisher) 

appearance of the building. This entails the original spatial 
arrangement, the internal and external finishes, and often 
the furniture and fittings. Listing applies to all of the 
building and, in libraries, the historic interest is often more 
extensive on the interior than the exterior. 

The ‘character’ to be preserved is both real and atmo- 
spheric. The historic interest of a library resides, partly at least, 
in ambience. Although the ‘feel’ of a library is difficult to 
measure and hence take active steps to preserve, restoration of 
the building fabric should not destroy this aspect of character. 

Historic libraries are put under pressure in various ways. 
Often change is required to meet new health and safety 
regulations, to cater for the introduction of new library 
technology, and to accommodate functional change in the 
use of parts of the library. Change rarely occurs without 
alteration to the building fabric and it is how these adap- 
tations are carried out to historic libraries which is of 
concern here. There are three principles to follow: 

Options for renovation or extension (plan). (Brian 

• Ensure that wherever possible change is reversible (keep 
samples of old fittings, furniture and finishes so that 
reinstatement or replication is possible at a later date). 

• Carry out restoration so that it is recognizably of the date 
of implementation — avoid pastiche of the original. 

The dialogue between old and new can bring the original 
into greater focus. 

• Understand the qualities of the historic library so that its 
underlying character can inform the alteration. Here 

The Sydney Jones Library at the University of Liver- 
pool is now a listed building. Changing the carrels 
would greatly alter the historic value of this Basil 
Spence building designed in 1962. (Brian Edwards) 



Options for renovation or extension (section). (Brian 

there may be questions of rhythm, material and effects of 
light on sequence of spaces which can be reinterpreted in 
a contemporary fashion. 

Often change to historic libraries allows unsuitable alter- 
ation from an earlier phase of restoration to be reversed. At 
the listed Manchester Public Library (designed in 1929 by 
E Vincent Harris), the entrance hall has been filled with 
shops and display boards which disfigure or obscure the 
original arrangement. The flow of progression from street 
to reading room is impeded by well-meaning architectural 
additions carried out with indifference to the spatial se- 
quence of the building. 

Some would argue that the character of a library is also 
that of the character of the collection. The books make 
a historic library and to remove the leather-bound volumes 

Doe Library, University of California, Berkeley, is both 
a campus landmark and a state monument. Designed 
in 1911 by John G Howard. (Brian Edwards) 

and replace them with paperbacks is as significant an ero- 
sion of character as the destruction of cornices. Un- 
fortunately listing extends only to the fixed elements and to 
original furniture or fittings — in the UK at least the collec- 
tion itself is not listed although it may be protected in other 
ways. However, any architect involved in work on a historic 
library must take into account the role played by books, 
paintings and sculpture in the totality of the environment. 

Mention was made earlier of the opportunity provided 
by restoration for revealing the historic features of a library 
in new ways. Conservation is a question of preservation on 
the one hand and creative adaptation on the other. Few 
projects fail to provide a chance to establish a fruitful 
dialogue between past and present. Skilful restoration 
allows the past to be brought into clearer focus by its 
contrast with the materiality of the contemporary world. 
This debate in stone or steel mirrors the debate between 
books and electronic library media. A library, even if 
listed, is not a museum of books but a living building. 
Restoration provides the means to ensure that the historic 
building is in touch with the past and the present. 

The colonial entrance to Nassau Public Library and 
Museum. (Biddy Fisher) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

View of entrance to Arts 
and Humanities Library, 
University of Melbourne. 
(Biddy Fisher) 

The restoration of historic libraries should entail the 
minimum of destruction to original features. Library, 
Columbia University, designed in 1892 by McKim, 
Mead and White. (Columbia University) 

Small-scale conservation measures 

Besides large-scale adaptation to historic libraries, there is 
also periodic restoration or repair to consider. Listed li- 
brary buildings are likely to be fairly old structures and 
hence require specialized attention from time to time. As 
with major alteration, there are three principles which 
should guide detailed conservation works: 

• minimum effective restoration is preferable to compre- 
hensive fabric renewal 

• record the work both before action is undertaken and 
during the contract 

• ensure that the restoration or repair does not prejudice 
future action. Aim wherever possible for reversibility. 

As with larger action, work on historic libraries should 
seek to convey the importance of cultural property. 
Restoration or use adaptation should communicate the 
value and meaning attached to such buildings. Restora- 
tion should not be penny-pinching, implying say in the 
use of plastic laminate as opposed to hardwood that old 
libraries do not matter. The materials of conservation, the 
skills of craftspeople and of specialized conservation 
architects or designers should all be placed ahead of 
consideration of cost. Historic buildings demand greater 
resources and effort than ordinary buildings and work on 
them should ensure that the key values attached to cul- 
tural property — emotional, cultural and use — are pre- 
served (Feilden, 1982). This argument applies with 
particular force as libraries are one of the most public 



The new wing at the National Library of Norway 
wraps around an atrium which now houses a cafe 
and reading area. The phased growth of libraries 
should encourage the creation of new social or 
exhibition spaces between the book repositories. 
Overcoming obsolescence often involves taking 
imaginative steps forward. (Brian Edwards) 

forms of cultural property accessible equally inside and 

Putney library - an exercise in refurbishment 
of a listed library 

The public library in Putney is an example of the extension, 
conversion and refurbishment of a listed library in opera- 
tion. The 1999 extension retains internal features including 
a Victorian oak-beamed roof with centre arches and pan- 
elling, which formed part of the building’s listed status. 
The library is situated in a residential street, adjacent to the 
high street of this London suburb. It stands in close prox- 
imity to railway and underground stations and bus stops. 
The library is a busy hub, admitting 2,000 users per day, 
many of whom arrive by public transport. 

The entrance, placed in the modem section, is 
approached via a ramp and stair. The elevated entrance, 
which is reached via a revolving door, leads to a desk that 

The Green Library, Stanford University, by Bakewell 
and Brown (1919), where the urban setting of this 
historic library has been re-established by recent 
campus upgrading. (Brian Edwards) 

serves as a referral point for the users as well as the return 
and issuing counter. At this point, the ceiling is low with an 
expanding view beyond to other areas including the audio 
library and the main enquiry desk. These important visual 
keys allow the user to locate the main library functions 

The exterior is built of Portland stone and the large 
circular window at the front of the building is tinted blue. 
Internal decoration has been chosen to complement 
external materials. Walls are white and doors are beech or 
opaque glass. Door and window furniture is aluminium. 
The lighting has been meticulously designed in all points of 
the building. It is unobtmsive and uses modem fitments and 
features. Library staff are complimentary about the ade- 
quacy in work areas, while users find all areas of stock and 
work areas lit to precisely correct levels. 

Linking corridor and reading area at Sydney Jones 
Library. (Peter Durant) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

This building is successful from the point of view of 
both users and staff. Beyond the entrance foyer the full 
height of the building is unrestricted, giving a sense of 
space and orientation. The enquiry desk, adult fiction and 
non-fiction book stock, public access PCs and photo- 
copying facilities are found in close proximity to staff 
offices, which are accessed directly from this area. Also 
adjacent are the book and people lifts, the audio stock and 
the listening areas. Close proximity provides convenience 
but the library does not feel cramped. 

The bookshelves are low and easily reached by those in 
wheelchairs. The attention to accessibility is apparent in 
the design of the building as well as the bookshelves and 
desks. There is an easy flow within the building from books 
to facilities, staff to services. It has architectural points of 
interest and the relationship between old and new features 
is handled with great effect. 

The children’s area at Putney Library is on the first floor 
with a separate children’s cloakroom and washroom 
nearby. The round bay window overlooking the street 
provides a pleasant environment for the working area of the 
library. It is complemented by a row of individual desks, 
equipped with PCs. 

The second floor houses a separate adult study room. 
Individual desks are provided, some of which are equipped 
with PCs, including two ‘iMacs’. Printing facilities and an 
enquiry desk are part of this heavily used facility on the 
upper floor. Sunlight is controlled by external screens and 
temperature is moderated by a cooling system. Also on the 
upper floor is a high security area, with individual tem- 
perature control for the ‘Aubrey Collection’ of children’s 
books. This area is purely for preservation of books and is 
not publicly accessible. 

The older Victorian building, which was constructed in 
1899, provides the staff with a rest area that echoes the 
layout of a home. It uses space previously occupied by the 
‘librarian’s flat’. The architect has designed a kitchen that 
contains the original Victorian fireplace and incorporates 
a seating area within a feature bay window. The building 
already benefited from the presence of an undercroft, 
which has been employed for book storage using compact 
shelving. Adjacent rooms provide a workspace for 
processing new acquisitions and mending stock. The new 
library wing benefits from the storage space provided in the 
Victorian building as well as its architectural features. 
The spacious panelled corridor that was the entrance to the 
previous library is now used as an exhibition space. The 
original Victorian meeting room, adjacent to the entrance 
foyer, offers a public space that can be used by local 
organizations. Old and new accommodation complement 
each other, providing this unique library with a distinctive 
character. Skilful adaptation of a splendid Victorian 
building has allowed Putney Library to become the 
rejuvenated heart of a thriving suburb. 

Ballieu Arts and Humanities Library, 
University of Melbourne 

The refurbishment of Ballieu Library, by architects John 
F D Scarborough and Partners (the practice which designed 
the original building in the 1950s), required the retention of 
the fifties style and features whilst accommodating the 
technology of the twenty-first century. Users approach the 
library entrance from the leafy aspect of the campus 
quadrangle. They meet a new curtain wall reflecting the 
eastern aspect of the building in which is positioned an 
entrance lobby that contains references to the building’s 
past with memorial plaques. The lobby space has been 
retiled and redecorated and now contains vending ma- 
chines, information boards and telephones. On entry to the 
building, the immediate concerns of users are dealt with by 
a hub of service points. Orientation points are provided 
throughout the building and navigation is reinforced by the 
choice of different colours of wood and leather furniture. 
Scandinavian influences are present in furniture, staircases 
and in the half-glazed and timber partitions — providing 
a link between the present and original phase of the 
library’s development. 

The Ballieu Library is the preferred choice of un- 
dergraduates studying arts and humanities at the university. 
It is the busiest of the campus libraries, with a collection of 
services points immediately upon entry. The main lending 
desk, a reserve collection, workstations, on-line public 
access catalogue (OP AC) terminals and return chutes are 
all in this area, providing a market place of activity. The 
round pillars of black marble or maroon paintwork offer 
islands for information points and help orientate busy 
students immediately upon entry. In contrast, the reading 
rooms are carpeted and quiet oases. Generally, with low 
ceilings readers have the choice of individual desks or 
larger work tables. There is a single, large, high reading 
area immediately behind the curtain wall at ground level 
that overlooks the trees and landscaped area, giving the 
space the impression of being alongside a forest. 

Users access the main reading areas via a central spiral 
staircase. This is encased in wood and glass using a pattern 
echoed throughout the building. New technology has been 
integrated by placing terminals at desks arranged in 
‘buddy’ clusters. Up to 10 PCs can be accommodated in 
angled (open hexagonal) groups. Book and journal stock 
surround the buddy areas. Lighting is always suited to the 
purpose, either above reading areas, at the end of stacks, or 
diffused around the computer terminals. 

The refurbishment of this major university library (the 
sixth upgrading in 50 years) coincides with changes in the 
management philosophy. Grey and unexciting furniture 
and fittings have been replaced in order to signal the in- 
troduction of new methods of information retrieval. The 
changing nature of the librarian’s work is exemplified in 



Showing the relationship between the two phases at UEA. (Shepheard Epstein Hunter) 

fresh room layouts, furniture and information systems. 
Users need librarians where the information sources are 
located, especially those using the Internet. Librarians have 
been relocated with their collections; this includes the on- 
line terminals and Internet access PCs. By placing 
traditional sources and electronic systems together, IT is 
effectively integrated in the minds of users. The restruc- 
turing of space has had to coincide with the reordering of 
staff timetables, offices and security systems. This, the 
sixth refurbishment of the Ballieu Library in less than 50 
years, shows the necessity of creating adaptable libraries at 
the outset. 

Two examples of extended university 
libraries: University of East Anglia and 
University of Liverpool 

Although this book is been mainly concerned with new 
academic libraries, in practice architects are more often 
engaged in extending or altering existing university 
libraries. These two examples, both designed by Shepheard 
Epstein Hunter, involve major extensions to university 
libraries designed by significant British architects of a gen- 
eration earlier. The first is the extension to the library at the 
University of East Anglia designed by Denis Lasdun. The 
original library built in 1968 is now listed and the architects 
for the extension had the responsibility of respecting the 
building’s architectural character. Lasdun’s library sat as 
a promontory at the end of a ‘teaching wall’ and it is this 
promontory which has been extended. 

Lasdun’s six-storey library was entered from a raised 
walkway on the third floor. The new library follows this 
arrangement but turns the building through a right angle as 
Lasdun himself had proposed in the initial campus master 
plan. The new wing follows the basic proportions and scale 
of the original building though in lighter and more envi- 
ronmentally-friendly materials. Whereas Lasdun used heavy 
pre-cast concrete construction and a repeating rhythm of 
vertical concrete fins for solar control, the extensions by 
Shepheard Epstein Hunter employ a steel frame, gluelam fins 
and timber boarded finishes. The effect is to humanize the 
building on the outside, to establish clarity between the 
different phases of the construction of the library, and to 
address the climatic shortcomings of the 1960s building. 
However, this is achieved without any sense of disrespecting 
the proportions or ambitions of Lasdun’s initial conception. 

A glazed link forms the join between the extension and 
the original library. An earlier scheme by the architects to 
enclose the Lasdun library in a glass box, where it would 
become essentially a book deposit surrounded by 6 m deep 
light and airy reading rooms, was abandoned when the 
building was listed. Similarly, plans to extend upwards 
proved prohibitive both aesthetically and financially. After 
exploring options the relatively simple right angle exten- 
sion was built. It forms part of a larger scheme for phased 
additions to be built as money becomes available. As such 
the six-bay wing as built establishes a language and foot- 
print for subsequent expansion. 

Construction of a floor at a time allowed parts of the 
existing library to be refurbished as books were decanted to 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Extension by Shepheard Epstein Hunter to listed 
library by Denis Lasdun. The proportions have been 
respected whilst steel and timber have replaced Las- 
dun’s concrete structure. (Shepheard Epstein Hunter) 

the new wing. The double height IT centre which occupies 
the central two floors of the new wing is sandwiched 
between book-stack floors and reader carrels above and 
below. For obvious reasons, the IT suite is located in the 
new wing rather than adapt the Lasdun library for this 

A similar set of problems was faced by the University of 
Liverpool at the Sydney Jones Library. The original 
library, this time designed in 1972 by Basil Spence, had 
proved inadequate for an expanding university and one 
where centralized IT was seen as inadequate. The solution 
again involved building an extension whilst also releasing 
space for internal refurbishment and alteration. Shepheard, 

Epstein and Hunter were again the architects and followed 
a similar strategy of respecting the spirit of the earlier 
building whilst addressing both space and IT shortcomings 
in the provision of new facilities. 

The new £12 m building doubles the size of the Sydney 
Jones Library (the university’s Arts and Humanities li- 
brary) and acts as link between the old library and the 
Senate House. Within its four storeys, the wing contains 
new multimedia facilities grouped around a central atrium. 
The atrium acts as gateway to the library both physically 
and in terms of the information services provided. An 
adjacent cafe provides a welcome counterpoint to the 
general scholarly atmosphere. As a member of the Russell 
Group of UK research-orientated universities, the quality 
of the library is seen as essential to winning funding and 
attracting students. 

The new library exploits the challenge of energy effi- 
ciency in the attention paid to natural light and the use of 
stack effect ventilation. The atrium provides a useful en- 
vironmental service by assisting with cross-ventilation in 
an area where intensive computer use can pose a problem. 
Intelligent facades also provide high levels of light at pe- 
rimeter reader desks but without the fossil fuel disadvan- 
tages of the older building. 

As a building, the Sydney Jones Library acts as a centre 
to the campus, which revolves around the Georgian 
Abercrombie Square. A new library piazza forms an annex 
to the square overlooked by the raised library cafe. 
Heights of the various buildings have been carefully 
controlled and set at four storeys to reflect the classical 
tradition in Liverpool (see pages xx— xx). Although the 
Spence library is not listed (unlike at UEA) the whole sits 
within a conservation area where attention to urban design 
was paramount. As the university librarian notes ‘the 
whole building exudes a sense of light, spaciousness, 
possibility and optimism ... a place (quoting Disraeli) of 
light, liberty and learning’ (Sykes). 


Feilden, B. M. (1982). Conservation of Historic Buildings. 

Architectural Press, p. 6. 



Furniture, shelving and storage 

Except in the most prestigious library, furniture is normally 
specified from manufacturers’ catalogues rather than being 
designed specially for the building. Architects merely 
select shelving, desks and tables from what is offered by 
library furniture manufacturers. The choice, however, is by 
no means limited or the products available of inferior 
quality. The main problem which arises is not what is se- 
lected but who does the selecting. Often it is the chief li- 
brarian or project team which makes the choice of furniture 
and fittings. It is vital that the architect is involved in 
guiding the team in making the selection. This will ensure 
compatibility in terms of architectural structure and fur- 
niture layout, dimensional correspondence between book- 
shelving and partitions or tiling patterns, and the avoidance 
of conflicts of colour, style or material. 

Where the architect or interior designer is responsible 
for both the building design and the furniture design there 
will be harmony in the total environment (e.g. Malmo 
Public Library by Henning Larson). Sometimes the designs 
prepared by architects are adopted by specialist library 
furniture manufacturers and made more widely available. 
This has occurred with designs prepared by Sir Norman 
Foster and Partners, but it is the exception. Usually, there is 
little professional service continuity between building and 
furniture design: the task is either undertaken by nominated 
designers or catalogues are scanned and appropriate 
choices made. 

The principal library furniture and shelving manufac- 
turers in the UK are British Thornton ESF Ltd and 
Gresswell. Folio provides a specialist shelving service 
adapted to many subject needs and Specialist Storage 
Systems provide a range of mobile or fixed shelving for 
abnormally sized materials (newspapers, plans). LFC 
provides a total package from book and journal storage to 
open shelving, while Ecospace specializes in compact 
mobile storage systems and a company called Preservation 
Equipment Ltd (PEL) provides equipment specially 
designed for conservation storage. These and other man- 
ufacturers provide a comprehensive service; library de- 
signers should be aware of their products before space is 
allocated to shelving or storage. 

The main types of library furniture provided include: 

• shelving (open and closed) 

• mobile compact storage 

• counter systems 

• display shelving or boards 

• general library furniture 

• special furniture for children 

• furniture for IT equipment 

• map and plan chests 

• photographic storage 

• book trolleys 

• specialist concentration furniture or storage 

• security storage. 

Not all manufacturers provide a comprehensive service 
and, for special library needs, it is better to use specialist 
manufacturers than adopt a standard fitting. Although 
storage for rare books or fragile photographs is expensive, 
the safe storage of the collection is paramount. 

Foreg 2000 open shelving used at Wye College 
Library, Kent. (Forster Ecospace) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Open access mobile shelving at Wye College Library, 
Kent. (Forster Ecospace) 

Dimensional co-ordination 

It is important that in their room layouts architects follow 
the dimensions commonly adopted by shelving manufac- 
turers. These vary but are all based upon repeating modules 
in height, width and depth. Typical is the library shelving 
system manufactured by British Thornton ESF Ltd where 
the shelves are available in 700 mm, 800 mm and 900 mm 
lengths, there is a consistent depth of 260 mm and heights 
vary from 1200 mm to 2000 mm; using the same 
combination of elements, bookshelves can be single or 

double-sided and starter or extension bays. Dimensional 
co-ordination keeps costs down, makes erection and in- 
stallation relatively simple, and provides a visually unified 
library environment. The basic shelving assembly is 
commonly available with integral lighting, a base and 
stabilizing top unit, and is offered in a variety of colours or 
laminated finishes (ash, oak, beech, etc.). 

Other shelving assemblies are available for items such as 
CDs or cassettes and for special needs such as a children’s 
library or display. These frequently integrate dimensionally 
and visually with the basic library shelving assemblies. It is 
better to avoid competing systems in the same library except 
where they can be accommodated in separate areas and 
where their use is justified because of a specified need (plan 
or newspaper storage). Normally library shelving is fixed 
and can only be moved by dismantling the assembly. 
Commonly, however, some lengths of library shelving are 
mobile in order to provide flexibility of layout, particularly 
around information points or near the library entrance. Here 
units of shelves are placed on concealed castors, which have 
a locking device for safety purposes. 

Study carrels are also available in standard lengths, widths 
and finishes. As with shelving, they are manufactured to 
allow for single or double-sided assembly, and many come 
with optional extra such as shelves, cable access and a 
position for a computer or study lamp. Most are 800-900 
mm wide, 1300 mm high and 750-800 mm deep, creating 
a double sided carrel unit 1600 mm across. Where com- 
puters are integrated, the width extends to 1000 mm and the 
depth should be at least 800 mm to provide space for the 

Compact mobile storage 
at Cambridge University 
Library. Note the 
perforations for 

(Forster Ecospace) 


Furniture, shelving and storage 

Compact specialist 
storage at Thames 
and Hudson. Note the 
variety of types of 
storage within the 
shelving system. 
(Forster Ecospace) 

Special storage 

Most larger libraries will need facilities for storing news- 
papers, plans, archival documents and perhaps extensive 
runs of journals. It is normal to provide storage floors for 
this material, which is brought to the reader by library staff. 

Basement or sub-floor storage is common in all but smaller 
libraries. Specialist manufacturers provide a range of 
compact, mobile storage systems normally based on 
a fireproof construction (steel or aluminium). Such systems 
require heavy-duty performance and are either manually or 
electrically driven. Compact mobile storage is highly 

Children’s library 
furniture manufactured 

by LFC. (LFC) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

efficient in terms of space but is expensive to install, 
maintain and operate. The system adopted for a particular 
library is usually tailored to customer needs but as with 
library shelving, there are common sizes of units, widths 
and heights. Mobile storage employs a rail system with 
guide wheels, gearing (to allow for manual moving of 
shelving units) and safety measures (to prevent trapping of 
users or library staff). With a system of compact mobile 
shelving manufactured by a company such as Ecospace, 
facilities exist for storing books, journals, newspapers, 
magnetic tapes, CD-ROMs and box files. 

Deep-shelf storage systems are also available in the 
form of plan or map chests. Normally these use drawers 
900 mm by 1250 mm and 100 mm deep fitted with tele- 
scopic runners. Although traditionally constructed of 
timber, modem plan chests are made of steel for security 
purposes. The units may be perforated to provide ventila- 
tion in situations where drawings could suffer from mildew 
attack. Where plan and map storage is provided, it is im- 
portant that large tables are positioned nearby to avoid 
damage when the material is unfolded or referred to. Sharp 
edges or gaps between tables can lead to tears or damage to 
plans and drawings. Study tables should normally be large, 
have bull-nosed edgings and be capable of being cleaned 
with chemical-free products to avoid possible damage to 
fragile drawings. Such details are commonly overlooked 
by architects who frequently lack the knowledge of spe- 
cialist library furniture manufacturers. 

With special storage, the imposed weight on the floor 
can be considerable. Loading can be as high as 160 kg/m 
length as opposed to 75 kg/m length for a typical library 
shelving. For this reason, compact storage is normally 

placed on basement floors where other advantages such as 
ease of environmental control also exist. 

For security reasons, compact storage is often locked 
using either steel cages, steel doors or sliding access panels 
activated by a password. Security is needed to cope with 
the three main threats of fire, dust and unauthorized access. 
Much archival material such as historic photographs, plans 
or drawings is vulnerable to damage from moisture, dust or 
natural light. Here security storage has to balance possible 
theft against more insidious attack from, say, dust mites. 
To protect against fire damage, secure storage is needed not 
only to preserve the contents from heat but from water 
staining. The most valuable books and papers are normally 
stored in lockable sheet steel cabinets, which can resist 
both fire and water damage. 

With both general library storage and archival storage, it 
is necessary for the options agreed between library staff 
and the architect to be discussed with specialist library 
furniture manufacturers before the system is adopted. 
Room layouts should not be prepared without early di- 
alogue with the companies that will ultimately be supply- 
ing the shelving, furniture or storage facilities. The impacts 
to consider are not only the normal concerns of room di- 
mensions, column, window and door positions but also 
floor loadings and environmental control. Although spe- 
cialist suppliers are normally brought in late in the pro- 
curement process, there are many advantages to be gained 
from earlier involvement. Pre-contract discussion can not 
only save money in the long term but can also lead to 
economies in space or equipment at the outset. This is 
particularly true where archive or special collections make 
up the library collection. 

Adjustable library 
shelving manufactured 
by British Thornton. 
(British Thornton) 


Furniture, shelving and storage 


combination to create four position 

Workstations and study carrels manufactured by Borgeaud Bibliotheques Enem. (Borgeaud Bibliotheques Enem) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plan, magazine and 
archive storage 
manufactured by Forster 
Ecospace. (Forster 

Shelving and space needs 

Library collections have a habit of growing faster than 
anticipated. Growth is by no means regular or even; it is 
often erratic and sometimes exponential. Few collection 
policies allow for items to be discarded at the same rate as 
new books, journals and CD-ROMs are acquired. Even 
when a library has a policy to restrict the collection to 
a specific size, in reality reasons are normally found to 
accept additional material. 

Library space consists principally of three components: 

• stack space for books 

• reader space 

• staff space. 

All three need to be planned effectively with checks and 
balances to avoid staff accommodation growing at the 
expense of bookshelving areas or reader seats. Normally, 
the size of the collection grows faster than the needs of staff 
space or reader space. Expansion in the library stock is 
generally the critical factor in accommodating growth. As 
mentioned earlier, growth in stock is often met by 

outhousing rarely used material in a book warehouse at 
some distance from the library (e.g. the National Library of 
Scotland). Commonly, however, the shelves themselves 
are extended to meet the storage of the additional 
books either by cramming (e.g. the National Library, Cape 
Town, South Africa) or by the construction of new 

To plan effectively, it is important to understand the 
space needs of books, journals and IT. Most libraries have 
a policy of open-shelf storage for the bulk of the collection. 
Shelf length and density of occupation by bookshelves and 
of books themselves on shelves is critical. Normally, a li- 
brary plans to have 80-90% of its total stock on open 
shelves. The collection not on shelves is either on loan, in 
use elsewhere in the building, or held in the reference 

For calculation purposes, it is normally assumed that six 
volumes occupy a linear foot of shelves or 20 volumes per 
metre. If the bookshelves are arranged vertically spaced at 
between 200—300 m (8—12 inches), this means that about 
80 books can be stored in every 1 m 2 of open shelving. 
If the shelving bays are 2 m high, this allows for around 


Furniture, shelving and storage 

Special storage for the 
Bodleian Library’s 
collection of historic 
books. (Forster 

150—160 books per linear metre of shelving. Hence, with 
a collection of 300,000 volumes, a typical library would 
require 2000 m of shelving. But the collection is often not 
that simple. A typical volume varies according to whether 
it is a book, atlas, bound journal, thesis or videotape. Books 
also vary in size according to discipline (art books are 
typically larger than social science books), to the time 
when printed (nineteenth century books tend to be larger 
than twentieth century ones) and the country of origin. It is 
thus important to decide upon typical volume sizes for the 
nature of the collection and also the likely rate of bor- 
rowing. Poor planning is evidenced by too many books 
competing for shelf space, and by additional shelves being 
constructed in circulation areas, across windows or directly 
beneath light fittings. The use of a space data record 
recommended by Wells and Young (Wells and Young, 
1997) provides a formula for calculating the space required 
for specific types of libraries. 

As a rule of thumb one can assume that with small, 
mainly paperback books that 200 volumes can be accom- 
modated per square metre of shelving (6—8 shelves high), 
typical hardbacks around 150, and large reference material 
about 100. Allowing for room between the shelves for 
disabled access, this results typically in around 120-150 
volumes per m 2 of library space (excluding staff areas and 
general circulation space). Thus a library with a collection 
of 300,000 volumes would require at least 2000 m 2 of floor 
area for the open-shelf book collection. Formulas for ca- 
pacity are, however, dangerous and although general 
guides are useful at the initial planning or costing stage, 
none is entirely satisfactory (Metcalf, 1986, p. 154). 

In the USA, libraries grow at around 3% per year 
(Metcalf, 1986, p. 155) with well-established libraries 
expanding generally at a slower rate than newer ones (at 
Harvard University the annual growth rate is 2%). In aca- 
demic libraries, one assumes between 50-80 books (or 
equivalent) per student with a faculty or college library 
housing at least 40,000 volumes, and a main university one 
of 1,000,000 volumes. Typically, a large town library will 
house 500,000 volumes, a branch library maybe as few as 
5,000, whilst a national library for a western country may 
have a total stock of 5—10 million volumes. Some specialist 
libraries may have a limited stock of books but an exten- 
sive collection of letters, notebooks and other archival 
material. These figures are an indication that space and 
shelf length are not uniform across types of library and that 
growth, though it has to be accommodated, is by no means 
even over time. Librarians and designers need to consider 
strategies for expansion shaped by the particular needs of 
the collection, the political or institutional framework in 
which they operate, and the changing technology of the 
printed and electronic word. In addition, librarians will 
have extensive data on which to base growth strategies 
based upon the needs of particular subject areas and budget 

The spacing and design of bookshelves varies according 
to location, type of reader and nature of the collection. 
Bookshelving in reading areas tends to be of larger scale, 
better design and more widely spaced than in other library 
areas. The shelves in and forming the perimeter of reading 
rooms are subject to much visual scrutiny, are used casu- 
ally for browsing, and house books (such as dictionaries or 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

King’s Library encased 
in glazed security 
panels at the British 
Library. (Forster 

atlases) of general use. The aesthetic impact of the book- 
shelves here affects the appearance of the library as 
a whole. In the main stack area, on the other hand, the 
bookshelves can be more utilitarian in character and spaced 
to achieve maximum efficiency. 

Since reading room shelving (and furniture generally) is 
subject to close scrutiny, it needs to complement the 
architectural order of the space. Hence, the structural bays 
of window, column and beam should form the space 
discipline for bookshelves, tables, chairs and task lighting. 
Whereas shelving in the bookstack area of the library may 

be 1 m apart, in the reading room the spacing is more likely 
to be 2 m, and the shelves constructed of naturally finished 
hardwood rather than aluminium brackets, steel and 
painted wood. In some high quality reading rooms (such as 
in national libraries and well-funded academic ones), the 
shelving will not be free-standing bookcases but built-in 
shelving around the room perimeter. This has the advan- 
tage of preventing visual clutter whilst also reinforcing the 
architectural language of the space, but is inherently in- 
flexible in terms of accommodating growth in the library 


Furniture, shelving and storage 

Co-ordination of shelving and titling in the reference 

section of Chicago Public Library. (Brian Edwards) Various types of storage by Forster Ecospace 

employed at the Social Studies Library, Oxford 
University. (Forster Ecospace) 

Special storage needs 

The vast majority of storage for printed material can be met 
by standard shelving. Under 10% of an average library 
collection has exceptional dimensions and normally as 
little as 2—3% of books, etc. demand special storage 
attention. Typically, tailored shelving is required for: 

• atlases and maps 

• dictionaries and encyclopaedias 

• journals and periodicals 

• newspapers 

• art folios 

• manuscripts. 

Common depths and loads for types of storage 

Storage type 

Depth (mm) 

Load (kg/m) 

File boxes 



File cartons 






Magnetic tapes 



A4 files, upright 



A0 drawings 



Papers and magazines 



Source: British Thornton ESF Ltd and LFC 

Atlases, maps, aerial photographs and plans 

Atlases have specific storage and display needs. They are 
the most frequently used type of oversized material in an 
academic or public library. Normally library equipment 
suppliers provide atlas display cases to order, but some- 
times the architect is involved in their design. Atlases are 
frequently housed in a map room where maps, of value to 
historians as well as geographers, are stored. Maps are held 
in deep trays on rollers or hung from rigid demountable 
rails. Generally, it is better to avoid folding maps and, to 
prevent damage in use, to provide large table-top areas 
nearby. As a general rule, maps and atlases are stored 
horizontally to avoid damage to their spines. 

Maps, aerial photographs and plans are normally stored 
in large acid-free folders or boxes. These are placed on 
racks or in drawer cases specially designed for the purpose. 
Such drawers are normally fairly flat (25—50 mm deep), but 
each can house up to 100 maps or plans if neatly stored. 
With storage of such material, it is important to consider 
ease of access. Drawers can be heavy to remove from 
a rack and maps difficult to consult without pulling out the 
whole shelf. Large racks full of maps or plans can also be 
a considerable weight for the building structure to bear. 

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias 

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias are normally held in 
reading areas where they can be readily consulted. They 
are rarely stored in stack areas since their frequency of use 
demands a more accessible location. Large dictionaries 
and encyclopaedias are often consulted in the standing 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Library shelving designed by Foster and Partners at 
the Law Library, Cambridge University. Note the co- 
ordination of shelving and lighting. (Dennis Gilbert/ 

position and hence slanting topped high tables are some- 
times provided. Another option is to use a consultation 
shelf in place of a regular shelf at an approximate height 
of 1 m. As with atlas storage, special dictionary shelving 
and stands are available from library furniture manufac- 
turers. The same needs apply to computer manuals, which 
for obvious reasons need to be close to PCs or within the 
IT suite. Here, however, consultation is likely to be 
alongside the computer, using a convenient table top for 
spreading the material. As with dictionary storage, a place 
for taking notes is essential without the need to return to 
one’s desk. 

Periodicals and journals 

Periodicals and journals also have special storage, display 
and use needs. Current journals or periodicals are normally 
displayed on open racks or shelves so that the front cover is 
fully visible. Immediate back copies are frequently shelved 
nearby (perhaps behind or beneath), whilst further back 
copies are bound and found in open or closed journal 
storage elsewhere. Practice varies according to the type of 

library and the frequency of use of journals vis a vis books. 
Since journals and periodicals are larger than books, the 
policy on their storage and display affects the overall space 
needs of the library. In addition, it is normal practice to 
provide some comfortable seating near to the periodicals 
display racks so that the reader may peruse the material in 
an unhurried fashion. 


Newspapers pose a particular problem. They are bulky and 
difficult to store and only infrequently used. Research 
libraries may justify a large newspaper archive, but the 
normal public or academic library will need to be selective 
in the extent of back copy newspaper storage. Newspapers 
are fragile, expensive to bind, expensive to store, and dif- 
ficult to use or copy from. Large racks are needed for 
storage, large table tops for reference, and generally large 
areas for circulation (certainly trolley access to reader 
tables). Fortunately, microfilm and electronic formats are 
making newspaper access and storage more manageable, 

Comfort seating at Oak Park Public Library near the 
magazine section. Lounge areas such as this require 
their own character of furniture and fittings. (Brian 


Furniture, shelving and storage 

Information desk near the rare book stacks at Chicago 
Public Library. Notice the reflective floor finish and 
specially designed light fittings. (Brian Edwards) 

and only national and major academic libraries in the 
future will store original copies of newspapers. There is 
good coverage of the national press through Internet ser- 
vices, although local papers are not usually available in 
these formats. 

Where back copies of newspapers do form part of the 
library collection, they are normally stored flat in large 
boxes if unbound, vertically in tall racks if bound as tabloid 
editions, and horizontally on shelves if bound as broad- 
sheet newspapers. Bound newspapers are heavy and should 
be stored where they can be accessed without risk. Over- 
high or too low storage will lead to problems for staff and 
users. Ideally, large bound newspapers (as with large 
atlases or art folios) should be slid horizontally onto 
a trolley or table for reference. 

Art folios 

Art folios are normally stored flat on special shelves to 
avoid damage to the drawings or prints, and to the folios 
themselves. Since art folios rarely have spine space for 
lettering, the shelves should be deep enough to identify the 
material held at that location. Folios should be stored be- 
tween 0.5 m and 1.5 m above the floor so that the reader can 
withdraw the material comfortably. There should be large 
tables nearby for displaying the material and good task 
lighting. Where the drawings or prints are fragile or light 
sensitive, special care should be paid to light levels, 
sources and supervision of the material. Effective surveil- 
lance is also important to reduce theft or damage. 

Manuscripts and archival material 

Manuscripts and archival material are normally stored in 
acid-free boxes. The size of the boxes is determined by the 
dimensions of the archives to be housed. The storage of 
archival material is less easy to plan for than books and 
journals; their size and conservation requirements are often 
more specific than books and the collection grows more 
erratically. Also there may be security risks and, with 
valuable material, locked metal boxes in a specially 
designed chest may be required as well as wire mesh 
caging for large material. Valuable material may normally 
only be handled by persons wearing protective gloves. 
Storage for new gloves and disposal bins for used ones 
must be provided adjacent to the collection. 


Wells, M. and Young, R. (1997). Moving and Reorganising 
a Library. Gower, pp. 51—59. 

Metcalf, K.D. (1986). Planning Academic and Research Library 
Buildings, 2ndedn. American Library Association, pp. 154—155. 


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Part 4 

Library types 

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The national library 

Of the four main types of library — national, public, 
academic and specialist — it is the national library which at 
present is changing the least. The relatively predictable 
demands of storage and conservation, plus the special 
nature of the readership, results in comparatively little ty- 
pological stress for the national library. In their spatial 
characteristics, the examples described later differ not 
greatly from those national libraries built in the early de- 
cades of the twentieth century. There are, of course, sty- 
listic changes, a growth in scale of provision and the 
tendency to separate storage from book usage, but the 
fundamental qualities of national libraries have remained 
relatively static over time and geographical space. 

Like many central institutions of government, provision 
here is well funded and the briefs have a conservative air. 
Hence, from Japan to the UK, the national library remains 
predominantly a book deposit; it is a place for scholars 
rather than casual readers and the architectural gestures 
tend towards the monumental. National libraries inevitably 
carry overtones of national image; they are as much sig- 
nifies of cultural aspiration as warehouses for rare books. 

In this sense the national library, as the later case studies 
demonstrate, is typologically distinct and formally secure 
in its design orthodoxy. However, as this chapter in- 
vestigates, subtle evolution is taking place, particularly in 
the area of storage, display and exhibition on the one hand 
and nature or ecology on the other. 

The national library is almost entirely a reference li- 
brary. Being deposit libraries where every book published 
in the country is housed, there are necessarily extensive 
book stacks. As they need to accommodate all new books 
published, national libraries pose particular problems of 
physical growth. Although acquisition policy varies be- 
tween countries, national libraries are a distinct type 
characterized by scale, readership and, frequently, gran- 
deur of building. 

The national library is essentially a reference and re- 
search library. Books are not borrowed but referred to. 
Although scholars may make notes from books, journals 
and historic documents, most resort to having copies made 
of relevant sections. The reader therefore requires general 
reading space, access to photocopying and service rooms, 

Rue Vivienne 

Bibliotheque Nationale, 
Paris, by Henri Lab- 
rouste, 1862 . (D Insall 
and Partners) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

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National Library of Cuba, 
Havana. (D Insall and 

1. Accounting 

2. Exhibition room 

3. Upper part of grand 

4. Office 

5. Committee room 

6. Periodic storage 

7. Maps & Manuscripts 

8. Seminar 

9. Prints & Photographs 

10. Book storage 

11. Director 

and areas dedicated to research. The distinction between 
open reading rooms and closed research rooms is a partic- 
ular feature of national libraries. At the British Library in 
London, for instance, the various research libraries are 
arranged around a central open library space. By way of 
contrast, the National Library in Paris places the research 
libraries below a floor of open reading rooms. In both 
cases, the research libraries are secure rooms dedicated to 
specific subjects. 

A central reading room is a feature of national libraries. 
The Congressional Library in Washington (1897), the 
National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth (1932) and the 
National Library in Stockholm (1928) all feature circular 
or octagonal central spaces. The large circular reading 
room has a democratic air, which suits national ideals but 
can cause a problem with acoustics. Noise distraction 
occurs as a result of readers turning book pages and leaving 
their seats to view book stacks, and from conversation 
between staff and readers. The circular form — especially if 
translated into a dome in section — can amplify sound. 
Where book stacks are arranged around the central space as 

spokes in a wheel, the noise can be channelled to the 
reading area. It is a problem overcome in many recent 
national libraries by greater use of subject reference li- 
braries that rotate about a central rotunda (e.g. the German 
National Library in Frankfurt am Main). In this form, the 
open reading room becomes rather more a symbolic space 
at the centre of the building as opposed to, as in the past, 
a working reading room. 

National libraries are generally part of central govern- 
ment provision and hence enjoy higher levels of expendi- 
ture than civic or academic libraries. This is partly the 
result of having to house rare and valuable collections 
under specific environmental conditions. At the British 
Library, the new building had to store (and make available) 
George Ill’s own library (known as the King’s Library). It 
is placed in the building as a period room complete with the 
original furniture, bookcases and books. The whole library 
is almost a transplant, placed carefully in a much larger 
modern building. Although it is a room, the walls are 
constructed of glass so that the leather bindings of the 
books can be seen from the outside. 


The national library 

National and University Library of Slovenia built in 
Ljubljana in 1936 to designs by Joze Plecnik. (Anon) 

National libraries, as all libraries do, make a distinction 
between rooms and space. Reference libraries are normally 
‘rooms’ with secure walls, entrances, ceilings and specific 
lighting. Open reading rooms are ‘spaces’, often double or 
triple height, overlooked by walkways or galleries, edged 
perhaps by open books stacks and sometimes naturally lit. 
The dialogue between rooms and spaces is a particular 
feature of the national libraries. Symbolically, the open 
reading room is the shared intellectual space of a nation; the 
old reading room at the British Museum was such a space. 

The general reading areas and book-stack rooms are 
normally separated physically in national libraries. Although 
some books and journals may be held on open shelves 

surrounding the reading room, more generally the books are 
held in secure stack rooms. These may be placed in a base- 
ment (British Library), in towers (National Library, Paris) or 
in separate buildings (National Library, Edinburgh). Base- 
ment storage of books is preferred since deliveries, security 
and storage can be integrated; at the new German National 
Library, three levels of basement storage are provided as well 
as a nuclear fall-out shelter. The book-stack rooms and the 
library areas generally have equal volumes of accommoda- 
tion. For storage, conservation of the collection and space for 
growth, accommodation accounts for between 50-60% of 
the total volume of the building at national libraries in En- 
gland, France and Germany. 

Security from theft, fire, insect, mould and rodent attack is 
a key concern in book-stack areas. Humidity levels need to be 
adjusted to protect paper, bindings and ink. Leather-bound 
volumes have quite different storage needs to modem jour- 
nals. Specific environmental conditions also need to be met 
with maps, scrolls and photographs. As national libraries 
expand with new deposits, it is not just a case of providing 
space but moderating that space to suit the particular needs of 
the collection. 

Increasingly, storage is placed away from the main 
building. This allows the needs of storage and conservation 
to be met without compromising the quality of space and 
the ambience of the library itself. The main disadvantage of 
separation is one of delay in getting the book to the reader. 
However, since most readers using national libraries are 
specialist scholars; they can plan the retrieval of material in 
advance of their visit using on-line catalogues. Physical 
segregation has one further advantage: with urban 

The distinction between 
‘rooms’ and ‘spaces’ is 
particularly clear at the 
National Library of 
Canada designed by 
Mathers and Haldenby. 
(D Insall and Partners) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

fl. 1 iM-ill*! 111=1-14 

I I 

Specialized reading rooms 


Uvrlti r*4tf[fifl room 




Security is an evident 
concern in the layout of 
the Library of Congress, 
Washington. Note how 
the central desks pro- 
vide uninterrupted visi- 
bility over the reading 
rooms. (D Insall and 

pollution, the environmental conditions in central locations 
are often not ideal for the storage of national collections. 
Semi-rural locations provide better conditions for both the 
storage and conservation of the material. As a result, some 

r — 

Future boofildtk 

The design for the National Library of Wales, Aber- 
ystwyth, anticipated future growth. (D Insall and 

national libraries have three systems of storage — one near 
to the reader, one in stack rooms within the building, and 
one in separate book storage warehouses some distance 
away. It is an arrangement which provides benefits for the 
reader (access to books), for the library (good architectural 
quality) and for the book (secure storage and specialist 
space for conservation, cataloguing, etc.). 

The current expansion in the output of books and jour- 
nals results in the British Library growing at around 12.5 
km of shelf space per year (Jeffries, 2007). The Bodleian 
Library in Oxford, which is also entitled to receive a free 
copy of every item published under an act of parliament of 
1911, received planning permission in 2007 to build a $29 
million depository on the outskirts of the city. In spite of 
electronic publishing, books continue to be published at an 
unprecedented rate (about 75,000 new books a year in the 
UK) and those libraries that have legal deposit status have 
a particular problem with storage. However, it is better not 
to stress the architectural character of existing libraries by 
cramming in too many volumes especially since many, 
such as the Bodleian Library, are listed buildings. After all, 
it is the quality of their design (space, furniture and fittings) 
which often separates national libraries from their public 
and academic counterparts. 

Functions of national libraries 

National libraries have four functions to fulfil: 

• the collection of printed and manuscript heritage 

• the preservation of past and present literary output through 
legal deposit 

• bibliographic record production for the country 

• a forum for exhibitions. 

In many western countries, the national library also acts as 
the hub for interlibrary lending. Some national libraries are 


The national library 

also the leading university library, as in Reykjavik, Iceland, 
and Helsinki in Finland. China recently established a new 
National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature in Beijing. 
Although termed ‘museum’ the collection is mainly liter- 
ature, manuscripts and related artefacts. All projects expect 
the architecture to echo the cultural importance of the 
collections within. Thus, planning and designing within 
a national library context is a most complex task where 
function and cultural meaning connect. 

Collection growth in national libraries is a dynamic 
feature. National libraries have responsibility for the col- 
lection and preservation of the national literary heritage. 
Unlike regional libraries, they will often have re- 
sponsibility under a legal deposit scheme. This requires 
them to house one copy of every monograph and printed 
publication available. Publishers are required to offer their 
national libraries a copy of all titles published, although 
some national libraries are selective. The National Library 
of Wales in Aberystwyth has a comprehensive collection 
policy which states that the library will collect every title 
published or printed in Wales, every title in the Celtic 
languages, every item relating to the history of the Celtic 
regions and peoples as well as Arthurian legend, but ex- 
cluding popular interest (National Library of Wales, 1998). 
The Library selects from those items published in English 
about Welsh subjects, but is comprehensive about the 
collection of titles from Welsh authors who publish in the 
English language. 

The growth in acquisitions as a result of the practice of 
legal deposit means that national libraries are subject to 
periodic expansion. In spite of the focus in this chapter on 
new national libraries, enlarging existing facilities tends to 
be more common than the design of new. Such enlarge- 
ment usually consists of new wings being added to the 

Extensions to the National Library of Italy showing the 
recent book deposit and administration/research 
tower. (Brian Edwards) 

existing core of library provision, sometimes resulting in 
a grouping of structures from different periods around the 
original library. Two examples can be cited; the first is the 
National Library of Italy in Rome: the second, the National 
Library of Norway in Oslo. Both bear examination as ex- 
emplars of how to undertake expansion without loss of 
comprehension of the building and its collection. 

The National Library of Italy was founded in 1876 in 
order to provide a comprehensive book archive which 
would be an expression of national heritage to stand 
alongside Italy’s considerable art treasures. The library was 
originally housed in the Collegio Romano where the Jesuit 
Bibliotheca Maior formed the core of the collection. This 
collection of manuscripts and early printed books was 
expanded with the acquisition of the libraries of various 
religious orders after the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. 
As a result, the National Library with its collection of 
6 million books, including over 25,000 from the sixteenth 
century and 8,000 manuscripts, is a major research source 
and cultural asset. 

In 1975 the library moved to the Castro Pretorio area of 
Rome where a new purpose-built national library was built. 
In 2001 it was substantially enlarged and refurbished. New 
reception and exhibition areas where created, plus a con- 
ference centre, lecture theatres, bookshop, bank and ar- 
chive facility. In addition, a new tall administration and 
research block was constructed to the east of the original 
library. Today the National Library of Italy consists of 
three elements: a brick-built book deposition in the centre, 
a new entrance block to the north with external amphi- 
theatre and small park, and an office and research tower to 
the east. The grouping into separate linked blocks allows 
natural light and cross-ventilation into the different parts 
whilst also providing space for further expansion. 

The National Library of Norway is housed in Oslo’s 
former university library built in 1913. The collection is 
both ancient and modem with many hand-drawn maps and 
early Viking manuscripts. The library interprets ‘text’ to 
include writing, sound and images and hence the building 
is seen as the container for the nation’s cultural memory. In 
1933 the original building was enlarged by the constmction 
of a new west wing to house administration and research 
departments. In 1939 another wing housing a new reading 
room was built to the east with a service courtyard sepa- 
rating the two new wings and the original library. 

In 1998 the University of Oslo sold the whole assembly 
of buildings to the Norwegian government in order to form 
the National Library. At this point it was decided to build 
a further block linking the east and west wings with an 
atrium where the courtyard once stood. The result is a li- 
brary that rotates around a lofty glazed central space (with 
its history written largely in the four wings) one of which 
includes the original 1913 building that forms the library 
entrance. As this is now a listed building the architectural 
contrast between the new and old accommodation mirrors 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

the historic mixture of the collection itself. Inside the 
atrium there is a cafe, study desks and meeting areas as 
well as lifts and stairs which rise through the 10 floors. The 
latest part of the jigsaw, built in 2002, houses seven floors 
of IT-based research areas constructed on top of un- 
derground book stacks. The dialogue between the archi- 
tecture and its contents, and the broad definition of ‘text’, 
makes this national library notable. 

Design and planning needs analysis 

For those designing new national libraries, current collec- 
tion development policies will determine the calculations 
to establish in-built growth for shelves and stack areas. 
Librarians will have details of average growth and these 
statistics should form the basis of calculations. Open access 
is not a regular feature for the majority of national col- 
lections. Librarians will be able to decide what percentage 
of a collection needs to be available either as reference or 
on open access. This will form the collection that should be 
available in reading rooms, including printed catalogues of 
collections housed elsewhere, bibliographic publications 

Newspaper reading room at the National Library of 
Norway with retained historic furniture and book- 
shelves. (Brian Edwards) 

and reference items that assist users to access other mate- 
rials. The feature of the reading area will be access to 
computers which provide the catalogue’s library, often 
within a web-based system. The environmental features of 
areas to be used for PC use therefore apply here. 

The area to be dedicated to the preservation of national 
library material has to be analysed in three discrete ways. 
The area for storage will have specific environmental 
considerations, which vary according to the type of mate- 
rial involved (books, photographs, drawings, etc.). Second, 
the area to be used for exhibition needs planning within 
parameters (including lighting and humidity) that do not 
pose threats to the collection. Lastly, there will be a par- 
ticular area for activities related to the practical aspects of 
preservation, including equipment for professional lami- 
nation used in page restoration, rebinding, photographic 
recording of scarce documents and other specialist con- 
servation tasks. 

The British Library 

Compared to the (Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris or the 
German National Library in Frankfurt, the British Library 
lacks a sense of conceptual clarity. This is partly the 
result of an over-long gestation period (nearly 20 years 
between design, construction and opening), and the crisis 
in English architecture that followed the intellectual re- 
jection of the Modem movement in the 1970s. The 
British Library came into being when there was little 
central purpose in terms of government perception of the 
role of public commissions. It was also designed when 
certain post-modem tendencies were eroding central 
modernist values. Implicit in the building’s post-moder- 
nity is the exploitation of a certain architectural ambi- 
guity to provide spatial richness. 

If the British Library suffers as a consequence of its 
formal uncertainty, there is no denying the success of large 
parts of the building. The main problem is the lack of 
a coherent whole: the sense that a national building of this 
scale requires a corresponding public architectural state- 
ment. In many ways, the British Library is the antithesis of 
its French equivalent. The Bibliotheque Nationale is 
a clear, almost posturing proclamation of national pride, 
whilst the British Library almost hides itself behind the 
gothic skyline of St Pancras Station and is approached via 
a series of understated pavilions and screen walls facing 
Euston Road. Although the British Library was described 
in The Times as ‘spectacularly beautiful on the inside, an 
uplifting vista of sleek white lines and exhilarating per- 
spectives’ (British Library, 1999), it remains a modest 
building from the outside. 

The British Library is one of the world’s largest librar- 
ies. It contains over 150 million separate items — sub- 
stantially larger than the French and German national 


The national library 

Refurbished reading room from the 1930s at the 
National Library of Norway with contemporary study 
tables. (Brian Edwards) 

libraries and equalled only by the Library of Congress in 
the USA. In addition, nearly 10,000 items are added each 
day resulting in a library that grows by about 3 million 
items a year. Put another way, the British Library will 
expand to twice its size every 50 years. The problem for the 
architects Colin St John Wilson and Partners was how to 
reconcile the scale of the collection with that of the in- 
dividual scholar (Brawne, 1997, p. 207). Part of the conflict 
in the resulting building results from the ambiguity needed 
to conserve and make available the collection whilst pro- 
viding personal study space for readers. The first requires 
large volumes with ideal environmental conditions; the 

second requires private study space centred on the book or 
manuscript (preferably with a view), lighting which the 
reader can adjust and perhaps a breeze to help maintain 
personal attention. In seeking to satisfy both conditions 
(book and reader), the building makes many adjustments in 
scale and character of space. 

Besides the collection, the British Library has three 
exhibition galleries, lecture theatres, a conference centre, 
bookshop, restaurant and cafes. It is a building that many 
visit for the exhibitions on temporary or permanent display, 
for the bookshop (which also sells gifts) and in order to 
meet friends in the restaurant or cafe areas. Taken together 
the building is rather more than a library — it is a blending 
of library, museum and civic activities which takes us back 
to the library in classical times (e.g. Alexandria). The 
historic precedent is reinforced by the generous provision 
of outdoor gardens and a public piazza for events. These 
provide space for the reader to contemplate on the material 
between bouts of intense study. 

The British Library is not a public library; its reading 
rooms and collection are available to those who need 
access to the unique nature of the material. The emphasis is 
upon research and scholarship, not casual or recreational 
reading. Readers need to register upon arrival before being 
given access to the three main floors of reading rooms. The 
entrance handles the large number of visitors by dividing 
them into separate groups within a large lofty foyer area. 
Visitors who wish to use the bookshop, lecture theatres, 
exhibition galleries or cafes are directed to one side while 
readers are taken to the other. This immediate segregation 
orders the plan and allows for security at the same time. 

The entrance foyer is the culmination of a pedestrian 
sequence from Euston Road via symbolic gates, terraces, 
a portico building and finally across a large piazza to the 

The design for the 
National Library of 
Quebec, Montreal, 
provides large foyer 
spaces for housing 
exhibitions. The design 
is by Patkau Architects 
with Croft-Pelletier 
Architects and Gilles 
Guite. (Patkau 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 



Diagrammatic layout of a national library. (Brian Edwards) 

library steps. The relaxed handling of urban design pre- 
pares visitors for the building by providing a promenade 
that gives ample opportunity to view the various parts. The 
piazza is not rectangular but a parallelogram formed by the 
angled alignment of Midland Road to the east. Within it sits 

The National Library of Denmark, known as the Black 
Diamond, is an amalgam of old and new structures 
facing the water. The black angled section is the new 
entrance lobby, cafe, bookshop and exhibition area 
for the whole library. (Brian Edwards) 

an amphitheatre that helps deflect movement towards the 
library entrance. Compared to the ruthless orthographic 
geometry of the entrance spaces to the French national li- 
brary, the piazza has a welcoming blend of formal and 
informal elements. The area is used for gathering parties of 
tourists and schoolchildren, and for displaying public 
sculpture in a pleasant sun-filled outdoor room. 

The entrance foyer is a handsome space flanked by grand 
flights of steps — making it a fine setting for the major works 
of art on show. The largest is a 7 m square tapestry to a design 
by the painter R B Kitaj, which hangs high on the west wall. 
Being roof-lit, the space is bathed in natural light with tall 
slender columns defining the cross axis which leads to the 
bookshop and galleries. Readers seeking admission to the 
reading rooms turn to the right, those wanting to use the 
restaurant and view the building pass straight on. The play of 
light, processional staircases and structural columns signal 
the route with graceful understatement, making the need for 
aggressive signing unnecessary. 

Many visitors to the British Library do not wish to 
consult books but to see the many valuable items on ex- 
hibition. The Lindisfarne Gospels (c.700), the Magna 
Carta (1215), the Gutenberg Bible (1455) and Shake- 
speare’s First Folio (1623) are displayed in the John 
Ritblat Gallery, one of the three permanent galleries. 
These items are major public draws and the John Ritblat 
Gallery is sensibly placed near the library entrance. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Entrance plaza, British Library. (Brian Edwards) 

Another attraction is the King’s Library — the personal 
library of 60,000 books belonging to George III. It is 
a collection of great beauty and is housed in a six-storey 
high, 17 m long glass-walled tower in the centre of the 

building. It acts as a point of navigation in the library and 
is overlooked by lifts taking readers to different reading 
rooms as well as the main restaurant. The artificial lighting 
is designed to allow the rich colours of the books to 
contrast with the white paintwork and subdued natural 
materials employed elsewhere. 

The disposition of the main library responds directly to 
conservation need. The bulk of the library collection is 
housed in a massive four-storey basement where conditions 
are ideal for storage. Staff retrieve the books, manuscripts, 
journals or maps which are then transported to the readers, 
who are positioned on the upper floors. Readers are given 
a desk whose number is illuminated when the requested 
material is available. A limited amount of stock is housed 
on open shelves at the sides of the reading rooms. Study 
desks have their own power, IT connection and reader 
lamp. The tables and chairs in matching American white 
oak and green leather form large study areas beneath high, 
coffered ceilings. Personal space is provided in large 
reading rooms by differentiating the long tables into sep- 
arate study desks and by providing smaller, more intimate 
study bays at the library periphery. The reading rooms are 
rarely rectangular spaces; they are often stepped in plan to 
provide a variety of table and bookshelf layouts. Choice of 
study ambience is deliberately provided to give a choice of 
conditions for readers. 

Views through the library are cleverly engineered to 
exploit the scale and complexity of the building. Light is 
introduced by various means (portholes, roof lights, walls 
of clear and coloured glazing) to remind readers of the 
rhythms of the day and as a stimulus to thought (Brawne, 
1997, p. 207). In general, clerestory and lantern lights light 
the larger circulation and study spaces, with domestic-sized 
windows lighting offices and smaller study areas. The 
result is a building which has more the properties of a small 
city than a large public building. In this, it is different from 
other recent national libraries which have greater grandeur 

British Library, London 

Architect Special features Cost 

Colin St John Wilson and Partners Houses the world’s largest research collection. Approx. £3, 000/m 2 in 1998 

Deliberately breaks down scale to mediate between the 
collection and the scholar. 

Has extensive range of supporting gallery, exhibition, 
conference, restaurant and shopping facilities. 

Places bulk of collection in three-storey basement (300 
km of shelving). 

Contains the ‘Kings Library’ as a glazed internal tower. 

Forms a generous external piazza for meeting, 
performance, contemplation and a venue for sculpture. 


The national library 

Interior planted court- 
yard, Bibliotheque 
Nationale de France, 
Paris. (Brian Edwards) 

and geometric clarity. However, the design shows that 
a building housing the world’s most important research 
collection can have a human touch. As the library’s ar- 
chitect Colin St John Wilson put it ‘to every scholar the 
(British) Library is a personal realm of secret topography’ 
(Brawne, 1997, p, 207). The building is as much a state- 
ment of the importance of scholars as a grand proclamation 
of the scale of the collection. 

Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris 

In architectural terms, the Bibliotheque Nationale de 
France in Paris is at the opposite pole to the new British 
Library in London. Whereas the British Library evokes 
a Northern European picturesqueness, the Bibliotheque 
Nationale is abstract, rational and coolly indifferent to 
place or context. In marked contrast to the urban enclosure 
of Colin St John Wilson’s design, that by Dominique 
Perrault is open and transparent — except for the enclosed 
fragment of forest in the centre. 

The concept for the Bibliotheque Nationale is simple: 
four towers of offices and book stacks mark each comer of 
a low podium of public reading rooms. The public areas 
look into a central forest, which forms a point of orientation 
in the building. Two reception points at either end of 
a rectangular circuit anchor the building between a suc- 
cession of thematic reading rooms arranged on the long 
sides of the courtyard. The main subject reading rooms 
(philosophy, law, science, literature, art and history) are on 
the upper level with research areas and special collections 
on the lower level. Since the library contains over 8 million 

Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris, designed by 
Dominique Perrault. (Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

printed volumes and a similar number of images, maps, 
contracts, etc., which make up the various special collec- 
tions, a clear distinction is made between reading (and 
research space) and the storage of material to which the 
readers refer. The latter is housed in the four towers, which 
mark the perimeter of the library and anchor the building in 
the urban scene. 

The library is noticeable for its transparency, simplicity 
of form and fluidity of internal space. Except for the 
sweeping steps and ramparts, which form the external ex- 
perience at pavement level, the building is highly glazed 
both in terms of the exterior facades and many of the in- 
ternal partitions. According to the architect, this was to 
evoke the democratic nature of the library and to give the 
experience of reading and research a clear public expres- 
sion. Access to the study material, though controlled, is 
highly visible from various circulation areas, cafes and 
exhibition galleries in the building. 

The main reading rooms are of double height, some with 
mezzanine galleries and small internal stairs. The book 
stacks do not rise to the ceilings but stop some way below 
to accentuate the sense of internal space. Simple geometry 
pervades the arrangement throughout. There is a square 
grid, which plans everything (tables, book stacks, lighting, 
service runs, structural columns, suspended ceilings and 
partitions) rationally. It is an order which derives from the 
central philosophy of articulating space on the basis of 
constructional logic, coupled with the need for flexibility. 
Since the collection is by no means static, the decision was 
made to establish hierarchies of structural and spatial order 
in which operational changes could occur relatively 

For the visitor the approach is, however, by no means 
clear. By avoiding the deliberate expression of entrance, 
the new library feels as if it can be entered at any point. In 
reality, there are only two entrances — both at high level and 
at the narrow ends of the rectangular building. The ap- 
proach, marked by excessively grand flights of timber steps 
and equally posturing ramps, eventually takes the library 
user to the edge of the internal courtyard. Here security 
checks are conducted outdoors on a windy deck over- 
looking the planted central garden. 

Inside the experience is smooth and spacious — a wide 
carpeted promenade circuits the outer edge of the garden 
with reading rooms arranged to one side. The walls to the 
garden (or forest) are totally glazed, while to the reading 
rooms there are long cliffs of timber boarding, interrupted 
periodically by views into the study areas. The contrast 
between solid and void, between transparency and enclo- 
sure, inside and out, towers and podium, establishes 
a stimulating sense of opposites at every point in the 

This drama is acted out, however, in marked in- 
difference to the presence of the River Seine, which runs 
alongside the north of the building. The main sense of 

Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris 

Architect Special features Date 

Dominique Clear statement of 1995 

Perrault new library typology 

Reading and research 
on separate floors 

Storage and conservation 
in four corner towers 

Central tranquil 
woodland garden 

Rigid geometric and 
structural order 

outside is that of the idealized forest in the centre of the 
building. Even on the podium deck, which acts as the ex- 
ternal terrace linking the two entrances, the river is barely 
brought into play. 

The use of mainly glazed facades gives the library 
a healthy sense of openness and fills the interior volumes 
with welcome daylight. Sunlight is controlled by the use of 
blinds and storey-height timber shutters which track the 
path of the sun. The system of environmental control gives 

Floor plans, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris. 
(Dominique Perrault) 


The national library 

Breakdown of South African National Library 





Telephone queries 


The collection 



Bound periodical journals 


Bound newspapers 


Manuscript items 






Growth in collection 

Annual increase in titles 


Source: Guide to the South African Library, 1997 

animation to the facades whilst never fully obscuring views 
into the library. 

The division between reading space and bookstore in the 
Bibliotheque Nationale de France takes the trend in library 
design in the twentieth century to a logical conclusion. The 
gradual separation between study material and the scholar 
began in the 1850s, accelerated after 1920 and now finds 
expression in Perrault’s four landmarking towers in Paris. 
There are operational and security advantages of the ar- 
rangement; by splitting storage from use, each can change 
or grow without impeding the other. Of course, it means 
that the serious scholar or researcher has to wait some time 

South African National Library 

Architect Special features Date 

W. H. Kohler Conversion of domed 1873 and 

reading room to exhibition refurbishment 
gallery W. H. Kohler in 1996 

Growth accommodated 
by new double height 
book stacks. 

Warehousing for stock 

Cafe and bookshop to 
generate extra use. 

Conservation of scarce 
anti-apartheid documents. 

for the book or papers to be delivered to their desk but, with 
some material available in each reading or research room, 
the reader can be making progress in the meantime. 

The South African National Library 

The South African National Library in Cape Town is 
typical of national collections in relatively young coun- 
tries. From its beginning as a legal deposit library in 1873 
to the present day, it has undergone periodic expansion in 
the form of new wings and independent structures some 
distance away. The latter are employed for the storage of 
infrequently used material such as early journal runs, 
newspapers and special collections. In the library itself, the 
lofty interior volumes have been colonized by ever more 
bookcases, some of considerable height. The new book- 
cases are constructed as an open steel framework with their 
own staircases — the whole structure being set as a central 
spine within older reading rooms. 

Whereas the departmental wings have been used more 
intensively as the demands imposed by a legal deposit and 
copyright library have expanded, the former circular 
reading room has been stripped of books altogether and is 
used today as an exhibition space. The exhibition gallery 
serves to present the library’s collection of maps, drawings 
and prints, as well as staging touring exhibitions. It attracts 
visitors to the library who are not intent on using the book 
collection and has a cafe to reinforce casual visiting. 

The management of the library has had to adapt to 
considerable change. As a national reference library de- 
voted to research, it remains central to South Africa’s sense 
of its own history, geography and future. During the 
apartheid years, the library continued to collect banned 
publications and to make them available to authorized 
researchers, who themselves helped bring about the liber- 
alization of the country in the early 1990s. Like many 
national libraries, its fortunes as a building and collection 
reflect the changing ideals of the society it serves. 

The main difference between civic and national libraries 
is the extent of unpublished material. National libraries 
necessarily hold national collections both of published and 
unpublished material. Implicit in this role is that of col- 
lection, preservation and presentation of the material. 
Unlike a typical city library, national libraries devote 
a great deal of space and expenditure to conservation 
measures of various kinds — binding, photographic pres- 
ervation, cleaning of drawings, etc. As such, just as space is 
needed for the legal deposit function, even more room and 
resources are required to preserve what is often a delicate 
and fragile collection of ancient books, political leaflets, 
maps and images. This is particularly true in South Africa 
where many of the most valuable publications were printed 
unofficially by underground political organizations based 
in townships or rural areas. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plan, National Library, Gottingen, Germany. (Gerber and Partners) 

The South African National Library (unlike the State 
Library in Pretoria) has the main duty to maintain a mi- 
crofilm collection of newspapers, journals and political 
pamphlets. These are relevant to the whole African conti- 
nent and aid staff in bibliographic research and publication. 
The dissemination of the collection is supported by a policy 
of direct funding of facsimile editions of rare African 
items. The library acts as its own publisher, using some of 
the equipment employed in rebinding and other preserva- 
tion tasks for new publications. 

It is clear that national libraries have quite distinct 
functions. The emphasis on size, scope and rarity of the 
collection has ramifications for storage and presentation; 
the need to publicize and disseminate the material adds 
further to the outreach function; and the political sensitivity 
of what is collected requires a commitment to balance 
irrespective of party pressure. Added to this, national 
libraries perform a vital conservation role, ensuring that 
books and journals remain accessible to future generations 
of scholars. 

National Library, Gottingen, Germany 

In Germany and the Netherlands, the national library is 
not a single institution but a number of national collec- 
tions dispersed amongst other publicly accessible librar- 
ies. This largely federal system has two advantages: it 
offers a fairer distribution of national treasures than the 
system in London or Paris which disadvantages large 
numbers of people by geography. Second, it allows for 

the integration of national, academic or public collections 
around subjects, thereby providing regional centres in the 
sciences, arts or literature. 

The German National Library is dispersed into five main 
centres, each attached to a major academic library. Typical 
is that at Gottingen where the national collection in the 
humanities, amounting to nearly 4 million volumes, was 
built alongside one of the major academic libraries in the 
country. The library at Gottingen has thus become the 
national focus for scholars wishing to access books or 
journals in the humanities. Since the university on whose 

National Library, Gottingen, Germany 


Special features Cost 

Gerber and 

National library absorbed Not available 


into university campus 

Arts and humanities 
library with emphasis 
upon traditional 
reader spaces 

Articulation of design 
into separate functional 
parts aids legibility 

Brings external landscape 
into view by using 
glazed ‘fingers’. 


The national library 

View and plan, Sri 
Lanka National Library. 
(Michael Brawne and 

campus the national library is built is a centre for study in 
the arts and literature, the integration of facilities also 
benefits the 20,000 students and 1,000 academic staff. 

The new national library is constructed in a large 
courtyard formed by existing faculty and library buildings. 

It stands alongside a deep-planned humanities library and 
shares with it a new tree-planted entrance square. Visitors 
therefore approach both buildings from a single space — an 
effect which helps to unify the two types of library pro- 
vision. Typical of German campus architecture, there is an 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

The National Library of Sri Lanka 


Special features 


Michael Brawne 
& Associates 

Employs traditional 
architecture as a 
symbol of national 

£560/m 2 in 1992 

Exploits passive 
ventilation and solar 
shading in a hot 

Places collection in 
air-conditioned core 
surrounded by open 
reading areas. 

orthogonal layout of large square buildings which the new 
national library cleverly deconstructs. The architects 
Gerber and Partners have arranged the building as a hand 
with five fingers stretching out towards trees. It is a plan 
which immediately identifies the central shared functions 

from the collection whilst at the same time maximizing the 
penetration of daylight. The new library breaks the grip of 
deep planning whilst retaining the benefit of compaction. 

The main functional zones are distributed vertically and 
horizontally. The public and reader rooms occupy three 
floors and extend along five parallel fingers of mainly 
glazed accommodation. Here circulation space is arranged 
against the perimeter, providing views out for those re- 
trieving books. Study desks occupy the centre of the wings 
in a zone defined by tall concrete columns. The control 
desk, information point and administrative offices are 
housed in a four-storey compact tower which sits upon 
a basement floor of storage, services and parking. Circu- 
lation between floors is provided in a glazed rotunda, which 
sits prominently on the west side of the composition. 

There is a calm rationality in Gerber’s design. The 
reading areas are arranged as peninsulas spreading into 
greenery on the south side of the building. The adminis- 
tration, library information and control areas are in a squat 
tower to the north, with circulation via a beacon-like stair 
on the west side. The three elements break down a large 
building into constituent parts, aiding legibility and 
allowing the national library to be absorbed into the 
campus landscape. 

Causewayside extension of the National Library of Scotland. Designed by Andrew Merrylees and Associates. (Brian 


The national library 

Sri Lanka National Library, Colombo 

The National Library in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is a model for 
other smaller nations in hot regions of the world. Rather 
than employ expensive air-conditioning, the building acts 
as a moderator of climate by the means of construction 
employed, the nature of the cross-section and in the posi- 
tioning of book stacks. The environmental and library 
strategies are effectively combined in this design by the 

UK architects, Michael Brawne & Associates. 

The library contains about a million volumes, some of 

which are of great historic and cultural importance. Like 
all national libraries, this one in Sri Lanka is simulta- 
neously a national monument and great warehouse of 
information (Brawne, 1997, p. 47). The design signals its 
cultural eminence by employing traditional forms of 
building, yet elevating them in scale to create a building 
of clear public importance. The civic element is achieved 
by expressing the library as a series of large horizontal 
and vertical structural elements. These give scale and 
provide effective environmental protection from the 
tropical sun and monsoon rains. They also allow the li- 
brary to respond to local patterns of building, providing 
an appropriate correspondence between a national 
building and the national culture which its collection 

The use of a modem Sri Lankan style helps make the 
library accessible in a cultural sense. There is an open- 
ness and ease of approach which derives from simple site 
planning. A large projecting canopy extends to the 
pavement edge, providing an obvious point of entry to 
pedestrians. The entrance canopy, as much a protection 
from the sun as the rain, takes visitors into an internal 
garden where a variety of routes open up. The main one 
to the library takes readers into a perimeter reading area 
and a control desk. This surrounds a central book stack 
which, placed in the centre of the building, provides the 
best environmental conditions for the storage of books 
and rare manuscripts. 

The library has an air-conditioned core of book stacks 
on two floors surrounded by wide naturally ventilated 
reading areas. Offices, archive and meeting rooms occupy 
the third floor. As with many modern libraries, books are 
taken from a darkened and secure library core to the edge 
where they are read in carrels bathed in natural light. The 
library edge is broken down into bays of seats in pairs 
sharing a table, each one modelled on the dimensions of 
facade elements. The constmctional grid of window 
mullions, solar shading and clerestory panels provides the 
framework for the carrels, which in turn help configure 
the layout of stmctural columns. It is a grid that organizes 
all elements, whether functional, environmental or 

By placing readers at the edge, they have the opportu- 
nity to enjoy views over the surrounding garden and to feel 

the fresh breezes of natural ventilation. Although windows 
open, theft is not a problem since readers are identified 
when they borrow books (no material is on open shelves). 
In addition, scholarship is highly valued in Sri Lanka and 
books are seen as a national treasure held in tmst by all 

The powerful rhythms of constmction and the use of 
traditional methods of cooling ensure that this national li- 
brary is held within a building which mirrors national 
customs. This is a national library, a building which is 
culturally accessible whilst preserving at its centre the 
treasures of a nation in an air-conditioned casket. 

National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh 

The original National Library of Scotland, built in Edin- 
burgh’s city centre in 1935, had filled to capacity by the 
1980s. The decision was then made to construct a sub- 
stantial annex a mile to the south at Causewayside. This 
annex was to be both a large book and journal store, and 
a specialist map library augmenting the original facility on 
George IV Bridge. 

The new building, which was built in two phases, has 
a deep plan and is fully air-conditioned. The site is 
surrounded by a compact blend of four-storey Victorian 
tenements and warehouses arranged in Edinburgh fashion 
around a grid of handsome streets. The new library is five 
storeys high and has a regular layout of concrete columns 
on a 7.2 m by 8.1 m grid. This allows the building to 
offer a high level of flexibility whilst providing sub- 
divisions for book stacks and partitions on 900 mm 
planning modules. 

As a national library, there are a large number of spe- 
cialist collections to house — map storage, the Scottish 
Science Library and geological archives. These are placed 
mainly in the centre of the building interspersed with 
reading and consultation areas. The perimeter of the library 
contains special areas given over to study, meeting or 
conference rooms in the second phase and mainly plant 
rooms in the first. Interestingly the perimeter of the library 
is planned on a grid placed at 45° to the rest of the building. 
The effect is to create unusual diagonal routes into the li- 
brary and rooms of trapezoid shape at the library edge. This 
has the result of forming distinct spaces around the pe- 
rimeter of the main reading areas, which relieve the ra- 
tionality of the evenly spaced columns with their nearly 
square subdivisions of book-stack and study areas. It also 
creates diagonal views over the surrounding rooftops and 
into adjoining streets. 

The use of square and diagonal grids was a rather 
fashionable architectural device in the 1980s. It has the 
benefit of exploiting the collision of the two to form spaces 
that are distinctive and provide space hierarchy in a build- 
ing of structural regularity. At the new National Library of 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

National Library of Scotland, Causewayside, 



Special features 



Deep plan air- 

Not available 

Merrylees and 

conditioned library 


on dense urban site 

Collision of square and 
diagonal grids to create 
interesting perimeter 

A building of modern 
‘national’ style to reflect 
a national collection 

Scotland, this effect is used to guide readers from the street 
into the main exhibition and information point. A projec- 
ting glass entrance porch placed at 45° to the main building 
takes visitors through a sequence of roof-glazed and 
enclosed spaces, each of varying size and angularity. The 
effect has been likened to that of the approach to Scottish 
castles where guarded entrances are often set at an angle to 
the main accommodation (Edwards, 1987). The baronial 
overtones are further expressed in double height, prismatic 
entrance spaces and highly glazed, square-framed stair- 
cases; the latter project through the roofline to give pic- 
turesque massing to the skyline. 

The entrance is further defined by a pair of lift shafts 
placed again at an angle to the orthogonal remainder. The 
closely spaced, angled lifts establish a distinctive reception 
volume on each floor. From the outside, the lifts signal 
entrance; from the inside, they identify the area where li- 
brary staff are located. 

In its stone detailing, general massing and in the mea- 
sured collision of square and diagonal grids, the National 

Plan, National Library of Japan designed by Fumio 
Toki (Fumio Toki/AR) 

Library of Scotland is an urbane building. This is no neutral 
container for the storing of national book treasures but 


The national library 

National Library of Japan 


Special features 

Fumio Toki 

• Forms part of Kansai Science Park 

• Houses Imperial Library and Japanese 
parliamentary papers 

• Has tree-planted internal courtyard 

• Top floor cafe and roof garden 

a building which uses the contemporary Scottish style to 
give identity to the collection. In this sense, the cultural and 
spatial are drawn together — the complexity of built form 
perhaps signalling the evolution of a nation and its archive 
of written records. 

National Library of Japan at Kansai 

Designed by Fumio Toki, the National Library of Japan is 
located on a wooded site close to the Kansai Science City, 
not far from Kyoto. The library houses the Japanese col- 
lection of parliamentary papers as well as the Imperial 
Library, and is also the nation’s deposit library. Unlike the 
urban national libraries of London and Paris, this one near 
Kansai has the luxury of a spacious sylvan setting. 
According to the architect, the traditional elements of light, 
wind, greenery and transparency are the formal cues which 
find expression in the design (Chow, 2003). 

The main reading room and three floors of book stacks 
housing 6 million volumes (with a capacity for 20 million) 
are placed in a subterranean basement. Partly roof lit, the 
arrangement helps with the protection and conservation of 
the collection whilst also reducing the visual impact on the 
landscape (Chow, 2003). The building is square in plan and 
being highly glazed has an almost Miesian quality not 
unlike the campus architecture at Illinois Institute of 
Technology with its articulation of structural frame and 
glazing subdivisions. In section the library steps up from its 
substantial basement with sunken courtyard to form a block 
of seminar rooms and lecture theatre with an office tower 
above. The main reading room faces directly onto the 
courtyard, which forms a leafy division between the en- 
trance lobby and the main study areas. The reading room 
has a formal arrangement of tables and study desks beneath 
rooflights which provide diffused light by day and artificial 
light by night. 

The use of base and tower combined with internal tree- 
planted courtyard suggests the influence of the National 
Library of France (Chow, 2003). However, the organiza- 
tion in plan also shares affinity with the Library of 

Congress in Washington with its planning discipline of 
axes, cross-axes and light courts. The cafe and roof garden 
are located on the top floor to take advantage of the views. 

National libraries contain a country’s treasure house of 
knowledge both ancient and modern. Unlike public li- 
braries where a certain social and cultural engagement is 
encouraged through the medium of architecture, at national 
libraries the disciplines imposed by the scale of collections, 
their protection and preservation results in buildings that 
are highly rational in design. This national library is 
a building that also engages in the values of the country 
served. The combination of high-tech and tradition results 
in a building that is specific to place and, in an understated 
way, to Japan. 

Royal Library of Denmark 

The Royal Library was founded in 1653 when King 
Frederik III established what was to become Denmark’s 
national archive and deposit library. With links to the 
University of Copenhagen, the collection grew in impor- 
tance to become the most complete deposit of books 
published in Denmark. The collection today consists of 
nearly 5 million books but also significant archives of 
musical scores, manuscripts and early maps. The original 
building on Christians Brygge overlooking the harbour in 
Copenhagen opened to the public in 1906 to nationalist 
Nordic designs by the architect Hans Holm. It was ex- 
tended in 1968 and again in 1999 to form the present 
building for the Royal Library known affectionately as the 
Black Diamond. The latest extensions designed by 
Schmidt, Hammer and Lassen sought to massage the image 
of the collection of earlier buildings into a single entity 
worthy of a national cultural institution. By doubling the 
size of the library the Black Diamond was able to offer 
a range of complementary facilities such as lecture the- 
atres, exhibition space and a restaurant whilst focusing 
upon its core task of recording and preserving the textural 
cultural heritage of Denmark. 

The emphasis is upon design-led spaces rather than 
a collection-led national library. The aim is to draw people 
into the building by creating an eye-catching external 
image and then, upon entry, providing a dramatic sequence 
of entrance volumes which open up the facilities inside. 
The library consists of several elements: a large gallery 
where rare manuscripts, musical scores and pictures are 
permanently displayed; a temporary exhibition area near 
the library entrance; a concert hall for chamber music re- 
citals of printed works in the national collection; a national 
museum of photography; and a large bookshop. These 
provide a vehicle for opening up the Royal Library to new 
generations of users. 

The Royal Library consists of three connected struc- 
tures. The original building on the site known as the Holm 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

(after its architect) contains the bulk of the book collection 
arranged in wings built around a courtyard garden. In this 
regard it is a precursor to the courtyard layout of the 
National Library in Paris. From the Holm readers pass to the 
Hansen building which contains staff offices, conservation 
services and other specialist facilities. In turn the Hansen 
leads to the Black Diamond which is effectively the main 
reading room for the library. As is common practice, books 
and maps are brought to the readers’ desks by staff from 
archives collections elsewhere in the building. 

The Black Diamond acts as an entry portal of grand 
proportions to the remainder of the Royal Library. The 
reading rooms are placed on either side of a large atrium 
which rises through the six-storey building. Within the 
atrium a travelator leads visitors up to the main entrance 
floor to the library and here an escalator takes readers to the 
collections above. As a result the atrium provides the 
means to grasp the scale of the building and its collections, 
and gain a sense of orientation. 

Unlike the earlier phases of construction, the Black 
Diamond has walls and floor plates which are angled to 
the perpendicular thereby giving the building a sculptural 
quality both inside and out. Since the main public facil- 
ities are located here, the loss of functional fidelity does 
not impede the working of the library as a national col- 
lection. In fact, the effect is to encourage intellectual 
discourse through the ambiguity of the faceted spaces 
created. The openness of the reading rooms provides 
many diagonal views within the building and through to 
the Hansen and Holm wings further afield. This sense of 
spatial flow helps break down the barriers between sub- 
ject material and reader, and between that which is paper 
and image based. 

As with all national libraries the main task is that of 
securing and preserving collections for posterity. The 
emphasis at the Royal Library is upon making the cultural 
heritage of Denmark available and accessible not just 

Royal Library of Denmark 


Special features 

Hans Holm (1906) 

• National Archive and Deposit 

and Schmidt, 

Library linked to University of 

Hammer and 


Lassen (2001) 

• Large collection of musical 
scores and early maps 

• Design-led rather than 
collection-led spaces 

• Extensive exhibition and 
performance areas 

Atrium in the new wing of the Royal Library of 
Denmark, designed by Schmidt, Hammer and Lassen. 
(Fotografisk Atelier, Det Kongelise Bibliotek) 

through the archive collections but through the exhibitions 
and outreach facilities that are organized by the staff. The 
new building is the shop window for displaying the col- 
lection and the point of contact with the archive and re- 
search staff at the library. The large reading rooms of the 
Black Diamond signal the importance of using the col- 
lections in a space that captures the design values of con- 
temporary Denmark. 

Parliamentary Library, New Delhi, India 

Won in a competition by the architect Raj Rewal, the 
Parliamentary Library in New Delhi sits on a site of great 
symbolic importance to the Indian nation. Sandwiched 
between buildings by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens, 
the building is the first major construction in the imperial 
centre of New Delhi for a generation. The library houses 
the government archives which used to be stored in the 
drum of Baker’s Parliament Building until their volume 


The national library 

Exterior view of the 
Royal Library of 
Denmark (Black 
Diamond). (Fotografisk 
Atelier, Det Kongelise 

Plan of the Parliament 
Library, New Delhi, 
designed by Raj Rewal. 
(Raj Rewal/AR) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Parliamentary Library: New Delhi 


Special features 

Raj Rewal 

• Sits at the heart of the Imperial 
Centre of New Delhi 

• Uses linked courtyards inspired 
by Hindu architecture 

• Employs traditional shading and 
ventilation systems 

• Extensive basement storage 
for security 

and conservation required a separate building (Davey, 
2002, p. 38). It is in effect the national library for India in 
terms of government archive provision and the scale of the 

The new library is deferential to the classical architec- 
ture of Lutyens and Baker yet more Indian in spirit, 
drawing directly upon historic Hindu temple precedent 
(Davey, 2002, p. 40). As such the plan consists of linked 
courtyards which draw together the various separate 
buildings to form a composition enclosed by a perimeter 
wall. The library houses a number of elements of various 
degrees of security. A two-storey basement houses the 
book-stack collection and principal parliamentary archive. 
This forms a safe and environmentally stable base upon 
which the remainder of the library sits. 

On the ground floor are the main reception desks for the 
general public with separate entrances for parliamentar- 
ians, scholars and VIPs. The different entrances are placed 
axially at points of contact with perimeter functions such as 
the Parliament and Secretariat buildings. The ground floor 
houses the auditorium, scholars’ library and MPs’ reading 

room linked by corridors that face on one side into one of 
the courtyards and lead on the other to various offices. The 
first floor repeats many of the functions below with the 
accommodation housed in circular rooms that have their 
own internal staircases. The effect is like a Hindu Temple 
with an almost labyrinthine quality of self-contained vol- 
umes grouped around courtyards. The vertical sun over- 
head is skilfully used to light the interior rooms without 
overheating, by the use of traditional shading devices and 
glazed panels set into floors. A central pool of sunlight is 
drawn down into the lower floors from a large glazed dome 
which illuminates the study collection physically and 
metaphorically (Davey, 2002, p. 40). 

Architecturally, this large library of disparate functions 
is united by a simple and sober palette of building mate- 
rials. The main construction elements are pink sandstone 
and concrete whilst the interior volumes are enlivened with 
decorative tilework and timber screens. The effect is to 
remind visitors that India has its own architectural culture 
in spite of the legacy of European classicism left by earlier 
generations of builders. There is perhaps no better place to 
demonstrate this than in the Parliamentary Library in the 
state capitol. 


Brawne, M. (1997). Library Builders. Academy Editions. 

British Library (1999). Quote taken from What’s on: January — 
March 1999. British Library. 

Chow, P. (2003). Glass Cloister, Architectural Review , August, 
p. 64. 

Davey, P. (2002). Learning from New Delhi, Architectural 
Review , October, pp. 38 — 40. 

Edwards, B. (1987). National grid. Building Design, 30 October, 
pp. 25. 

Jeffries, S. (2007) Inside the Tomb of Tomes, Guardian Weekly, 
24 November, pp. 51—55. 

National Library of Wales (1998). Statement of Collection 
Development Policy. National Library of Wales, Department of 
Printed Books. 



The public library 

The twenty-first century has witnessed considerable 
change in the design of public libraries. The growth of IT 
has led to an unprecedented level of evolution in this type 
of library, with a fresh relationship between books, readers 
and computers. The dynamic triggered by new information 
technologies has been paralleled by considerable social 
change in the nature of library users. Knowledge needs 
have changed and so has the means of imparting it. The 
examples discussed later in the chapter suggest the emer- 
gence of exciting new forms of delivering library services 
at both city and branch library level. 

Each year in England around 60% of the population use 
public libraries. The majority of library users borrow books, 
both fiction and non-fiction, mainly for pleasure. A large 
number of users, however, visit the library in order to read 
newspapers or magazines, or to gain access to the Internet. A 
significant number of younger library users do so in con- 
nection with school or college projects. People looking for 
a job or local training opportunities use the public library as 
a source of information both about careers in general and 
jobs in particular whilst many others use public libraries to 
find out about community initiatives. In many urban areas 
one of the most frequent users of libraries are those who 
work from home or run small businesses. The diversity of 
uses of libraries by different members of the community 
suggests that their role beyond books is enormous. 

Today the public library caters for different people in 
different ways. It is evident too that the various types of 
libraries available, from mega-city facilities to local branch 
libraries, fulfil quite distinct services to the community. As 
a general rule the ‘larger the library the more often people 
will go to it, the further they will travel, and the better its 
image’ (ASLIB, 1995, p. 7). This means that not only are 
larger libraries better and more valued, they offer a higher 
quality and more diversified services to the community 
than branch libraries. Increased scale not only provides the 
means to provide an enhanced architectural experience, it 
offers superior benefit to users. As a result the trend, in the 
USA in particular, is towards the creation of larger libraries 
as opposed to the proliferation of smaller ones. Where 
small ones are provided, they tend to be within other 
buildings (such as community centres or shopping malls) 

with the result that the branch library is often an extension 
of something else. 

Access is the key to successful library provision: access 
for people of all levels of mobility, and access for books. 
Convenient location is crucial both to serve regular users 
and those who visit the library on impulse. In the UK, the 
government set a target in 1999 of providing a library 
service for each person within a travel distance of 20 
minutes. The relationship between libraries locally also 
influences patterns of use. Where a university library is 
available, it will be seen as serving both student and non- 
student needs. It is also likely to duplicate the material held 
in larger public libraries. As a consequence, the interaction 
between civic and academic libraries is one which should 
be planned to maximize benefit for all. 

Few public library visits are made without combining 
the trip with other tasks such as shopping or visiting the 
bank. Most journeys made to main libraries are by car or 
public transport; most to branch libraries on foot or by 
bicycle. Hence, library users may visit the library carrying 
shopping or accompanied by small children or, having 
arrived by car or bicycle, will need somewhere safe to park. 
The brief for the design of new libraries or the upgrading of 
older ones should consider carefully the pattern of use and 
incorporate those functions which are an indirect conse- 
quence of the visit (bicycle or pram storage, etc.). 

Purposes and functions 

According to a review of public libraries in the UK, there 
are four main purposes and 13 core functions of a public 
library service (ASLIB, 1995, pp. 11—12). The main pur- 
poses are: 

• to meet the library demands of future generations 

• to create libraries which are community assets 

• to create libraries of direct benefit to people who live, 
work or study in the area 

• to provide services that have a contingency value. 

These four general purposes lead to 13 functions grouped 
in three broad sets: 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Ideal pattern of library 
interrelationships. (Brian 

1 . Perpetual benefits: 

• enlighten children 

• provide popular reading material 

• create libraries which are landmarks in their 

• provide study space 

• provide ‘new media’ for loan or study. 

2. Occasional benefits: 

• provide reference services 

• provide access to global knowledge and culture 

• provide local study sources 

• provide access to information on vital issues 

• provide local information 

• provide information for business, training or 

3. Social benefits: 

• create a library building of value as a familiar, 
relaxing place 

• create a library building which is a pleasant place 
and offers a stimulating environment. 

It is clear that not all these purposes or functions are spa- 
tially dependent or even book dependent. These are aspi- 
rations that all public libraries should meet to a greater or 
lesser extent. Priorities are needed based upon local cir- 
cumstance and the missions of different scales of library. 
However, one benefit of the list is that it encourages local 
context to generate the type and character of the library 
rather than the inherited collection or the whim of the chief 
librarian. The list also highlights the social value of the 
library and the architect should ensure that the building acts 
as an intellectual and social beacon by the very nature of its 
design. Architectural image will help the public library 

become an important feature of social, cultural and 
economic life. 

The ‘street corner university’ concept 

In 2000, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and 
Sport described public libraries as ‘our street corner uni- 
versities’ (quoted by Glancey, 2000). This bold claim is 
dependent upon Britain’s 4,160 public libraries being 
connected not only to the Internet but to schools, colleges 
and even the home. Whether the library can compete with 
the video shop and burger bar depends upon the presence of 
a welcoming and stimulating environment. It also depends 
on reading and study material which is fun to use. If people 
are to be active readers and researchers in the twenty-first 
century, the library needs to learn from the successes on the 
high street such as McDonalds, Starbucks and Virgin. There 
is such a mismatch between the environment of the library 
and the retail world that it is surprising that over 350 million 
visits are made each year to UK libraries (Glancey, 2000). 
Although each person in Britain borrows on average eight 
books a year, numbers are not growing adequately to meet 
the Secretary of State’s ‘street corner university’ concept. 

The problem is not only that of design — especially the 
uninviting libraries we have inherited from the past —but of 
presentation. Normally your entry into a public library is 
met by barriers (steps, doors, control points) and the first 
materials you encounter are books. Videos, CD-ROMs and 
the Internet are tucked away in their own special area. 
Although public libraries in the UK hold 127 million 
books, it is not the printed word which holds the key to the 
future. The ‘street comer university’ is an IT library first 
and a book library second. Public libraries need to leam the 
language of marketing, to exploit the techniques so deftly 


The public library 

displayed in the retail world, and to engage more with 
popular culture. Peckham Library (see later) breaks the 
mould of the public library, opening up avenues for others 
to follow. Here the building is more meeting place than 
traditional library — the three arks floating inside are met- 
aphors for the journey into the future. However, it is hardly 
a ‘street corner university’, being four storeys high and set 
back behind a new public piazza placed at right angles to 
Peckham High Street. 

Social role of public libraries 

According to CABE (the UK’s Commission on Architec- 
ture and the Built Environment): 

• well-designed public libraries help revitalize 
neighbourhoods and cities, both physically and socially 

• libraries increasingly provide support for public 
services in areas like welfare and life-long learning 

• good library design increases the level of usage 
and attracts new users 

• good design helps to retain staff and helps with 

• well-designed libraries reduce crime and vandalism. 

Hence, public libraries have an important role to play in 
supporting the British government’s priorities for in- 
vestment in the public sector. These are seen as education, 
skills training, health and related awareness of issues such 
as obesity, social inclusion, community, and neighbour- 
hood renewal. The role of libraries is to provide the 
knowledge and access to information necessary to raise 
awareness and hence reinforce wider public debate in these 
areas. Similar initiatives exist in France and Sweden where 
the library is often the first point of contact between gov- 
ernment social policy and the community. In the USA, li- 
braries are normally the only place where free access to 
computers and the Internet are locally provided, thereby 
allowing communities to benefit from on-line educational 
facilities, job seeking opportunities and IT skills training 
{American Libraries Association Journal , 2007, p. 73). 
Empowering communities through the services in a library 
is a challenge for design as well as management. In- 
creasingly, a library is ‘a place where immigrants leam 
English and bridge the distance between their old country 
and their new adopted land’ {American Libraries Associ- 
ation Journal , 2007, p. 48). The level of space provided for 
IT and language training as against traditional resources 
such as books and newspapers is a measure of a library’s 
commitment to wider social cohesion. 

However, to be effective in their social role, libraries 
need to be attractive and welcoming buildings. According 
to the CABE report Better Public Libraries , published in 
2003 (CABE, 2003), outmoded design and poor location 
were responsible for the decline of 1 7% in the use of public 

libraries in the UK over the previous decade. CABE 
recommended that libraries should be communication 
centres catering not just for residents but for the needs of 
businesses and tourists. There should be cafes and lounge 
areas to make long-stay visits to libraries more comfort- 
able. The report also called for buildings that engendered 
a sense of fun in the discovery of new knowledge and the 
use of new technologies — not the drab world of silence and 
over-borrowed books which characterized many existing 
public libraries. The switch from books to free Internet 
access would result in the twenty-first century library, 
according to the CABE (2003) report, becoming a ‘living 
room in the city’ rather than a ‘temple of knowledge’. 

In being attractive to consumers, the architectural design 
of libraries should aspire to engage in the values of the 
communities where they are located rather than appeal to 
readers of architectural magazines. This may involve the 
use of colour, of cultural symbols, or of a design language 
accessible to ordinary people. Architectural design, which 
is appropriate for the context and the users of the library 
in question, may ultimately be more successful than one 
which is challenging. 

Attracting more young people to libraries is important 
for the future of the building type and in achieving the 
wider social goals mentioned earlier. Surveys suggest that 
people in the 14-35 age group are not well catered for in 
public libraries. The problem is partly to do with image and 
design. Too few facilities cater specifically for young 
people or do so in an environment which is either chic or 
uses ‘street’ language (Library and Information Update, 
2006). Putting the ‘buzz’ into libraries is a challenge for 
designers but lessons can be learnt by looking at other 
buildings. Media stores such as HMV, bookshops such as 
Waterston’s and cafes such as Starbucks all offer a vision 
of a friendly ordered world which young people enjoy. 
Many libraries have a youth strategy but rarely an interior 
design message that fits the rhetoric. 

Action that could be taken to put the ‘buzz’ into libraries 

• modernizing the style of existing libraries to avoid 
institutional connotations 

• providing ‘teenage’ space away from the rest of library 
where the emphasis is upon comfort rather than noise 

• increasing multimedia and interactive collections 

• extending electronic access 

• widening opening hours to mirror retail practices. 

It is often too easy to identify the functional and cultural 
shortcomings of public libraries. Changing social priorities 
inevitably demand new layouts as well as new collections 
and new modes of knowledge. The bigger challenge is to 
go beyond superficial functional efficiency and the limi- 
tations of service delivery. Librarians and their architects 
need to ask what the meaning of a library is and how social 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

or cultural nuances are communicated through design. 
Libraries are repositories of knowledge: they are places 
where knowledge is stored and made available for use, 
thereby enhancing the understanding of individuals and, by 
extension, the empowering of communities. This is 
a highly elevated role for any building yet few modern 
libraries express this in their design image. The challenge 
for architects today is to go beyond function into the dif- 
ficult but more fertile territory of expressing the deeper 
meaning of libraries through design. 

Part of the cultural shift concerns the role of books. 
There has been a decline in the significance of the physical 
collection and a corresponding increase in information 
services of various kinds. New modes of knowledge storage 
and transfer have challenged the supremacy of the book. 
Boundaries have been eroded, costs have fallen and 
knowledge modes have been revolutionized, with the result 
that many people have libraries at home as powerful or 
comprehensive as public libraries of a generation before. 
For the first time in history, the library faces competition. 
Survival will depend upon meeting a new audience, pro- 
viding new services, and making libraries into buildings 
worth visiting in their own right. The future lies in books, in 
the provision of quiet places to read, in areas for meeting 
and socializing, in IT access, and in managing the public 
realm of libraries so that security and control do not destroy 
the architectural experience of what makes a library. 

The public library as social capital 

The library, as with other public institutions, highlights the 
fact that, with centuries of economic and social de- 
velopment, attention shifts from private consumption to 
more collective fulfilment. The book and its container — the 
library — ceases to be an indulgence or luxury of the 
wealthy and becomes a measure of quality of life for all. In 
this sense, the presence of books in the home and libraries 
in cities acts as a barometer of social or cultural maturity. 
The collective satisfaction of the public library assumes 
significance as a form of social capital as distinct from the 
economic capital of traditional wealth. In periods of social 
change, such capital can help cement communities. The 
point is well illustrated by, at the time of writing, threats to 
the future of Manchester Central Library, a distinguished 
circular building designed by E Vincent Harris in 1930. 
Located in an area of Manchester subject to change — from 
that of an industrial to a post-industrial economy — the li- 
brary is seen by many in the community as a cultural asset 
in the widest sense. Campaigners argue that the collection 
(over a million books) and the building are points of ref- 
erence in both social and physical space. Even by those 
who do not use it regularly, the public library is, in an 
important sense, perceived as a long-established commu- 
nity resource. Being designed as a landmark in free space, 

Manchester Central Library signals the separation of public 
from private values — of institutions that feed knowledge as 
against enhanced capital wealth. 

The public library service has begun to enter into part- 
nership with other community-based agencies to provide 
information of various kinds. Leaflets on drug and alcohol 
counselling, on welfare rights, employment law, etc. are 
increasingly dispersed or displayed in public libraries. No 
longer is the book the main or sole target of the library 
visit: many visit the library to obtain advice or knowledge 
of the community and its social services. This trend has 
encouraged libraries to enter into agreements with other 
agencies and to make library space available for seminars, 
workshops and exhibitions. 

The concept of civic participation, training and educa- 
tion now balance the traditional role of the public library as 
a source of books. Increasingly, the library is seen as the 
hub of a community network involving statutory and vol- 
untary agencies. For disadvantaged communities, the li- 
brary can help rebuild social life and in time economic 
vitality as well. To be effective here, the library needs to 
see itself in a different light from the spirit of the Library 
Act of 1850. It needs to be open when most in demand 
(evenings and weekends), to balance the book with elec- 
tronic information systems, to encourage citizen partici- 
pation by providing cafes, shops and exhibition space for 
use by local schools and community groups and, finally, to 
become a publisher of databases and other small-scale 
ventures (ASLIB, 1995, p. 68). Electronic publishing could 
transform the public library from a dull and staid asset for 
a few to a lively and essential resource for all. Increasingly 
too, the library is seen as a shop or kiosk in a large public 
building, for example a shopping mall, railway station, or 
airport. Here it can interface with the community more 

Traditionally the public library is based largely upon the 
principle of leisure reading, mainly for those who possess 
the essentials of literacy and spare time. As society 
changes, however, new forms of library use emerge and 
expanding demands are made upon its resources. The 
agenda of social or community capital, aligned with the 
falling costs of electronic publishing, change the very 
nature of the library both as an institution and as a building. 

Typical of the new generation of public libraries is that at 
Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, UK. The library has been 
constructed in a former supermarket and is combined with 
a careers centre funded jointly by the local authority and the 
Kirklees and Calderdale Training and Enterprise Council 
using resources available under the national government’s 
Single Regeneration Budget (SRB). In addition, there is an 
Open Learning Library with an electronic database and 
a digital archive of 120,000 historic photographs funded by 
the UK National Lottery. The new library also contains 
a special collection for people with learning disabilities and 
is electronically linked to local businesses, fast food outlets 


The public library 

and sports venues, thus ensuring that it is seen as wedded to 
the needs of the community. In addition, the library provides 
research support via IT networks to three local schools in 
each of which is placed a ‘community study centre’ used by 
children during the day and adults in the evening. 

Although the initiative in Dewsbury was partly the result 
of pressure to close branch libraries in the town, the 
resulting rationalization has allowed the library service to 
have greater penetration within the community, local 
businesses and schools. Crucial to the success at Dewsbury 
was the cross-sector funding involving a partnership of 
local government, central government, charities and busi- 
ness. Equally important was the exploitation of electronic 
systems which eroded barriers between institutions. As 
a result of the changes, library use in the town increased by 
36% in the first year (Taylor, 1999). 

Crisis in the public library 

The dual role of the library of containing knowledge col- 
lections and making them available to inquiring minds has 
come under a variety of threats during the recent past. The 
culture of the public library has changed as people develop 
their own personal collection of books, have access to 
travel to national or specialist libraries, use university li- 
braries on their doorstep, and find that their personal 
computer gives them greater access to global information 
than that contained in the local town library. 

As society becomes more urban in character, the library 
becomes more accessible but perversely less used 
(according to the preamble to the European Union Fifth 
Framework Programme 1998—2002 , 80% of Europeans 
and 50% of people worldwide currently live in major towns 
or cities). The concept of self-advancement which the 
public library has promoted since the 1850s has un- 
doubtedly helped ‘popularize books, reading and study 
thereby enhancing the lives of ordinary people’ (ASLIB, 
1995, p. 41), but has of late lost some momentum as society 
has found advancement through formal education and 
home -based computing access. Whereas books helped 
abolish time, distance and ignorance, the same is over- 
whelmingly true of the digital revolution. The switch from 
the public service element of the town library to support for 
private computer-assisted study at home has severe rami- 
fications for the future of the public library. 

It has been argued that the maintenance of a sound 
public library is as important to the community at large as 
to its individual members (ASLIB, 1995, p. 43). In this 
sense, the library is a cultural anchor in times of change — 
a point of reference for those seeking work, planning 
a career change, adjusting to a new neighbourhood, or 
discovering the texture of local political or social life. In 
theory demographic change focuses the community upon 
the library, but changing lives and lifestyles have cultivated 

an environment of independence where the computer 
reigns. Without knowledge, the means of access to en- 
hanced happiness and prosperity is denied. The traditional 
primacy of the library in this regard is increasingly under 
threat with the public library, more than any other public 
institution, having to develop a ‘coherent response to in- 
coherent changes’ (ASLIB, 1995, p. 43) in society at large. 

Besides the changes in information technology (IT), in 
the balance between home life and civic life, and in the 
expectation of life-long learning, there is a major problem in 
the developed world of an ageing population. An increasing 
number of library users will be elderly and they have special 
requirements as well as general ones. There are ramifica- 
tions for access, type of collection (talking books, large 
print, Braille) and means of exchange (mobile libraries, 
home collections). The increase in the level of provision will 
benefit all users— not just the elderly —but will add to cost in 
an age of expanding pressure on the public purse. As the 
level of library use falls (due to IT and other changes in 
home-computing technology), the costs per reader rise. 
Politically the judgement rests upon value — the concept of 
the library as a true cultural beacon shedding light upon both 
the past and the future. A public library that fails to change 
to the pace of the contemporary agenda will become obso- 
lete. That means that, whilst the library will become 
a building without walls for some, for others it will remain 
a special place with its own distinctive type of environment. 

The library as ‘environment’ 

Just as museums, art galleries and stadiums have their own 
distinctive sense of environment, the same is true of li- 
braries. This special ambience helps define a library as 
a place rather than just providing space in a functional 
sense. Designers and library managers are vested with 
creating or maintaining this distinctive quality. The library 
environment, essentially a stimulating and restorative 
place, is dependent upon the presence of four factors: 

• it is an ‘away’ experience, different from everyday 

• it is an experience of entry, occupation and 
exploration of large architectural volumes 

• it is a coherent experience which is interesting and 

• it is a compatible experience where the spaces 
support one’s purpose. 

This list is adapted from Kaplan et al. (1993) (as quoted in 
ASLIB, 1995, p. 50). 

These four factors are experiential rather than func- 
tional, and collectively give means to the library experi- 
ence. They are a useful basis for evaluating the 
performance of existing libraries, and of establishing key 
principles in design briefs for new buildings. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

The environmental quality of a library is dependent 
upon the design of both architectural and shelving 
elements. Fuji City Library designed by Yamato 
Associated Architects. (Yamato Associated 

It is this distinctive quality that makes libraries worth 
visiting irrespective of the need to refer to books. The 
perception of the library being an ‘away’ place separate 
from home and work is true of the public library in par- 
ticular. The university library on the other hand is rather 
more a place of work for the student and is, as a conse- 
quence, less symbolic. The relative neutrality of the aca- 
demic library derives from its functional dimension as 
a place in support of learning and, to a degree, from the 
pervasive presence of electronic data, cataloguing and 
retrieval systems. The national library is even more 
symbolic and imbued with meaning than the public li- 
brary. Here all four factors, combined with the nature and 
scale of the collection, create a special ambience more 
akin to visiting a major museum. But complexity can 
overwhelm the visitor if the library is a kind of in- 
formation maze without spatial order. The answer to large 
libraries is to ensure that the architecture of the interior 
volumes directly reflects the architecture of the collection. 
Signs should reinforce cognitive mapping, not add to the 
confusion of navigation. 

The same principles of special place should apply to li- 
braries constructed in large buildings such as schools, col- 
leges, research centres or hospitals. Here the library needs to 
be distinctive — a place which is restorative and encourages 
reflective inquiry. Though the library may be only a single 
building within a bigger complex, its distinctive ambience 
should be evident to all. The key physical elements which 
help create ‘library environment’ are space, light, flow, 
materials and collection. The first four are architectural, 
while the last is concerned with the collection and its 

interaction via book stacks with the building itself. How the 
factors relate is the very essence of library design. 

If there are distinctive features that make libraries into 
special places, one should not overlook the importance of 
people. A library rich in meaning and character is one which 
is peopled. Libraries need people as much as people need 
libraries — the sense of sharing with other readers is that 
special library experience which is at the core of ‘library- 
ness’. The human dimension — the social interaction — is 
usually silent but knowing. To share in the same realm of 
intellectual inquiry establishes a bond not unlike that of two 
strangers enjoying a painting in a gallery. Part of the duty of 
the library designer is to create a place where such bonds are 
recognized as helping to nourish the intellectual strength of 
a community. The library in this sense is a gymnasium of 
the mind. 

Funding of public libraries and the effect on 

The public library service accounts for about 2% of a local 
council’s expenditure (as against 8% of a typical univer- 
sity’s in support of academic libraries). In the UK, this 
amounts to nearly £15 per year for every person. National 
libraries account for under 1% of national expenditure 
whereas a typical research-based company, such as 
GlaxoSmithKline, may invest 4—5% in its library pro- 
vision. Compared to other national services such as health, 
defence or education, libraries are relatively poorly funded. 
Lack of investment is more likely to slow the pace of 
innovation in public libraries than elsewhere. University 
libraries, for instance, with four times the level of in- 
vestment per capita can respond quickly to changes in 
technology or pattern of usage. IT libraries are better 
equipped and more comprehensively integrated with book- 
based stock in university libraries than civic ones — both 
public and national. Joint networking of IT systems across 
public libraries remains a rarity. 

Innovation and diversity are often thwarted by the ri- 
gidity of management and building fabric. Lack of funds for 
the development of electronic libraries or microlibraries in 
shopping malls is sometimes used to justify lack of imagi- 
nation or enthusiasm for change. This is rarely a problem 
with academic libraries but frequently occurs with public 
libraries. Building fabric can also be a real obstacle to 
change since new technologies require different standards of 
internal environment. The type and standard of lighting and 
the provision of new forms of ventilation and cabling can 
stress existing space. Equipment cost is itself an element, 
but the price of fabric upgrading to accommodate in- 
novation can exceed the price of the computers themselves. 

Access to the Internet is full of hidden costs; once the 
library becomes significantly electronic it is exposed to 
new legislative standards. The new information milieu and 


The public library 

old patterns of space usage in existing libraries are not 
readily reconciled without significant investment. How- 
ever, the problems with electronic information systems 
are that: they become obsolete quickly; they subject built 
fabric to considerable strain; they stress management 
regimes; and, given their all-pervasive nature, they can 
make the library redundant in a physical sense. The key 
to change may not be funding but the attitude of users 
and library staff to new digital technologies. Visionaries 
imagine a public library without walls, and mini-Internet 
libraries in every school and shopping centre and ulti- 
mately in every home. When this happens what will 
become of the traditional library building? Will it simply 
be converted into a cafe with a laptop by every napkin — 
a kind of library cybercafe with an associated ‘granny 

Evidence suggests a polarization of library usage with 
a backlash by older readers who insist upon books whilst 
younger users avidly surf the Internet. The two worlds are 
increasingly becoming separate systems: they may be in- 
tegrated in library space but they are not always integrated 
in library perception. Physical space can be used as the 
vehicle for system interface or can simply reinforce the 
division between the literate and computer literate sectors 
of society. In this sense, the library acts as a bridge between 
worlds — a place which breaks down the walls of knowl- 
edge compartmentation. It has the potential to be truly 
a high-tech gateway. The ‘publicness ’ of the public library 
allows this to occur, or at least it would if funds and 
management policies permitted a fresh approach to the 
design of such buildings. 

The architecture of library space is as important as the 
architecture of the collection — whether traditional or 
electronic. It can reinforce division and harden space into 
an exercise in social or information apartheid. 

Public square adjacent to Alexandria Public Library 
overlooked by library cafe beyond. (Brian Edwards) 

The welcoming entrance to Oak Park Public Library, 
Chicago. (Brian Edwards) 

Alternatively, the architecture of internal space can facil- 
itate freedom and access to information cyber-culture. 

Design strategies for the public library 

The external square or set back public space which leads the 
library visitor immediately to the entrance doors needs to be 
inviting, wide and transparent, and arranged so that the in- 
terior can be viewed immediately upon arrival. It should 
also be possible to view the major library spaces from the 
outside, thereby providing links to the life of the city. Too 
frequently the demands for security interrupt the physical 
and visible flows between the inside and outside worlds. 

Once inside the library the user should be able to 
comprehend the key spaces and principal routes. Hence the 
library control desk should not form an impervious wall but 
provide an inviting permeable barrier through which visi- 
tors navigate. The control desk where books are checked in 
and out should remain part of the entrance experience, not 
the sole or dominant element for the visitor. In large 
libraries it is often possible to form an inner foyer before 
the user reaches the library desk. Here there may be 
lockers, information boards relating to community 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

activities, a cafe and sandwich bar, and meeting rooms. 
This transition space between the inner and outer worlds 
requires particular attention in order to avoid disruption to 
the library. However, it is often the point where non- 
traditional users engage in the community facilities which 
libraries are increasingly providing. 

The library desk and control barrier provide an es- 
sential element in the working of the library, as they are 
the main point of contact between users and library 
staff. The spoken word is essential to aid navigation 
through the collection, augmented by the catalogue and 
help desk. Increasingly, the next point of contact is with 
the computerized catalogue or the IT support area, 
which is usually nearby. To counter the dominance of 
digital information systems in some libraries (which can 
deter the elderly) there is often a magazine or newspaper 
area nearby. 

There are four main strategies for arranging the book 
collection. The first is to stack the books near the centre of 
the library, arranging reading tables around the edge where 
there is good access to natural light and external views. The 
second is to place the books around the perimeter with 
a large central reading room often lit from above 
containing IT provision. Although there can be noise 
problems, this provides the opportunity to create an interior 
volume where readers can move readily between paper and 
electronic media. The third is to use a combination of the 
two: allowing the library to have a central reading room/IT 
space, a ring of shelving beyond which are located quiet 
study desks adjacent to perimeter windows. However, the 
integration of modes of knowledge and types of media is 
often difficult in practice because of the specific re- 
quirements of computers and the nature of some paper- 
based collections such as old newspapers or photographs. 
So in spite of the ideal of integration, there are often special 
study areas dedicated to types of media or study material. 
The fourth is to employ compact storage of books on 
shelving systems which concertina together. Here readers 
can access the books or journals by manually rotating the 
control wheel to open up the shelves in question. Compact 
storage releases space to meet expanding demand for 
computer space and community meeting areas. 

Since the storage and use of knowledge is changing 
rapidly, libraries need to retain a high level of flexibility. 
The ability of the building to change over time without 
compromising the key attributes of what constitutes ar- 
chitecturally a ‘library’ is an important consideration at the 
design stage. Libraries are recognizable buildings where 
spaces like the reading room help to define the type. To 
provide flexibility at the price of character is to remove the 
civic dimension which increasingly is required of clients 
and users. However, libraries need to be able to adapt to 
changing information technologies and their evolving 
cultural or social role if they are to achieve their full rel- 
evance in the twenty-first century. 

Types of public library 

The civic library consists of various scales of provision 
and contains a variety of library facilities. At a minimum 
there is a lending library with integral reading room, 
a reference library, children’s library, a dedicated area 
for newspapers and periodicals, and sometimes a music 
room, exhibition space and local history collection. Civic 
libraries consist essentially of central libraries and branch 

The central library 

A central library is normally the focus of a library system 
within a municipal area (county, city, state) which also 
entails branch libraries and perhaps mobile libraries for 
outlying areas. The central library is the headquarters of 
a system which services the branch libraries and undertakes 
any conservation or educational work necessary. In large 
cities, the central library is primarily a reference library 
(e.g. Mitchell Library, Glasgow, and New York Public 
Library) although some have small lending libraries 
attached. Central libraries also accommodate special 
collections of various types containing material of local 
interest. Normally, there is also a lecture theatre and ex- 
hibition space. Some central libraries are physically 
attached to municipal art galleries (e.g. Huddersfield) but 
generally, though detached, they form part of the civic 
quarter of a city (e.g. Norwich and Leeds). 

The central library is both a major reference library 
and the hub of a system of branch libraries. As such, the 
main stack rooms serving the system are normally part of 
the central library. As libraries expand, however, the in- 
tegration of storage and reader facilities is put under strain. 
As a consequence, book and journal storage is increasingly 
separated from the central library with a separate warehouse 
being used to house all or part of the collection. 

The decision to integrate or separate book storage is 
based partly upon convenience and partly on cost. Even 
with electronic or microfiche systems, the growth in books 
and journals puts pressure on space. As the use of libraries 
increases, the increasing administration load puts strain on 
office space. It is often cheaper to outhouse books and 
journals in warehouses than to pay high city centre rent for 
what is essentially merely storage. By employing book 
warehouses just outside the city centre, the authority may 
be able to reduce costs whilst retrieving space for more 
productive library purposes. 

Books are mainly distributed to the public via branch or 
mobile libraries. Just as the reader at a national library is 
not intent upon borrowing but upon gaining access to 
higher level provision, the same is true of the main central 
library of a city, country or state. Within a reference 
library, the integration of traditional and electronic re- 
trieval systems is particularly important. The user is likely 


The public library 

special deliveries 


Diagrammatic layout of a central library. (Brian Edwards) 

to be IT-competent — perhaps coming armed with a laptop 
computer. The central library needs to be able to offer 
high-level facilities, plus certain amenities such as exhi- 
bition space, cafe and lecture theatre. Background noise, 
which can be tolerated in the branch library, is less ac- 
ceptable in the central library, except in designated areas. 

The reference or reading room is the focus of the central 
library. It is sometimes used partly for book storage, giving 
readers instant access to commonly employed texts. The 
reading room is generally of large dimension in plan and 
section with specialist reference collections arranged 

around the edge. Where open shelves are used, these are 
arranged around the perimeter or project into the reading 
room forming smaller study spaces close to the material. 
Valuable books and journals cannot be placed on open 
shelves but, for the typical reader, the alcove system pro- 
vides the right scale of space for private study. 

As the reference library is a place primarily for study, it 
is important that tables, chairs and computer-based systems 
are integrated. Although there may be a separate IT library 
for viewing CD-ROMs, the reader needs to be able to refer 
to traditional and electronic data sources simultaneously. 

Public ► 










Storage and Stack Rooms 


Diagrammatic section of 
a central library. (Brian 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Diagrammatic relation- 
ship between central 
library and branch 
libraries. (Brian 








2-3 km 



2-3 km 


Separate rooms are normally provided on a subject basis, 
especially when the security of the collection is an issue. 
These can form a ring around the main reading room or 
overlook it as galleries. Occasionally they are grouped to- 
gether into distinct wings dedicated to branches of learning. 
The stack rooms form a separate element of accommodation 
either in the form of a basement, as storage wings, or as 
storage floors sandwiched between public levels. 

Since a member of staff using a book trolley retrieves 
most books or other study material in central libraries, the 
reading room and stack areas need to be in close proximity. 
Ease of access for staff reduces time and stress but, beyond 
a certain level of provision (about one million books), 
proximity is no longer possible. Here mechanical means of 
retrieval and movement are necessary, employing lifts, 
hoists and perhaps vehicles. 

The layout of the reading room is determined by the 
spacing and position of open bookshelves, the policy of 
table sharing (2—12 people), whether to use armchairs (these 
define spaces better and are more comfortable for extensive 
occupation), and whether to provide low screens between 
reading spaces. Normally 0.6 m 2 (6 sq. ft) per person of 
table space is provided but if maps or large books are 
commonly referred to this may increase to 0.8 m 2 . Gangway 
space between chairs of 2 m is necessary in main spaces and 
of lm in the study alcoves. Lighting is normally controlled 
to prevent glare from direct sunlight, to protect books and 
bindings from ultraviolet light, and to ensure a restful 
working environment. Sunlight is occasionally employed in 
newspaper reading rooms and in foyer spaces where it can 
enliven the atmosphere of the building. 

The organization of a central library, which also serves 
in part as a lending library, is reflected well in the plan of 
the New York Public Library. Designed in 1932 by Carrere 
and Hastings, it has two entrances (public and lending) 
which converge upon a central exhibition space. To one 
side there is a domed lending library and to the other an 
undomed reading room. Both share a common stack room 
which runs almost along the whole of the rear of the 
building. On either side of the main entrance are the peri- 
odicals room and children’s library. These flank the space, 
directing readers inward or upward to further reading 
rooms. The main public entrance faces Fifth Avenue whilst 

Entrance (Public) 

Diagrammatic layout of a branch library. (Brian 


The public library 

the lesser lending library entrance faces 42nd Street, 
thereby reflecting the external street hierarchy in the plan. 

The branch library 

The branch library normally consists of: 

• lending department 

• main reading room 

• children’s reading room 

• periodicals and newspaper room 

• reference room 

• community meeting room 

• staff offices. 

In addition, there are toilets, entrance and control points, 
and copying facilities. As with the central library, it is 
important that traditional and electronic sources are 
integrated near or at the point of use by the reader. 

Branch libraries vary in size and complexity. Some are 
simple affairs with a main reading room containing most of 
the functions listed above. Here the various sub-libraries 
are annexes or alcoves of the main library. In the larger 
branch library, there may be separate library rooms — 
perhaps on different levels or constructed as wings about 
the centre. In all cases, it is important to distinguish ar- 
chitecturally between the essential library spaces and the 
secondary accommodation. 

As a general rule, the main library or reading room should 
be directly visible from the entrance and at the same level. 
Stairs and lifts should be in close proximity to the entrance 
but easily controlled for security purposes. The hierarchy of 
routes (vertically and horizontally) should be readily per- 
ceived, thus removing the need for excessive signing. 
Changes in level should generally be avoided and, where 
necessary, negotiated via ramps and lifts. The need for dis- 
abled access is paramount — doors, corridors and space be- 
tween furniture should all accommodate wheelchair users. 

Visual supervision of the reading areas is vital if theft or 
abuse of material is to be avoided. Where a main library 
leads to secondary libraries, it is important that a single 
member of staff can supervise both areas. The position of 
staff desks should be considered at the building planning 
stage. To avoid noise and visual disturbance, library rooms 
should not act as corridors for gaining access to other areas. 
Since books and periodicals are generally stored on open 

shelves there is little need for stack rooms, but ease of delivery 
from the central library and its book depository is essential. 

The lending department is the hub of a branch library. 
Since open access is almost universally provided, security 
of the stock (and sometimes of the staff) is paramount. The 
layout of the bookcases should provide ease of supervision 
by staff from their regular working areas. Although closed 
circuit television (CCTV) can be employed, there is no 
substitute for staff surveillance. It is not only the books that 
are under constant threat, but the potential removal of 
sections of books or journals. 

Normally the reader passes a non-electronic control 
point to enter the lending department and exits past an 
electronic scanner placed immediately after the book 
checkout point. Some libraries dispense with control at 
entry altogether, believing the public libraries should be 
perceived as places without barriers. Control at the library 
exit is obviously essential and besides electronic scanners 
related to security bands on books and journals, there is 
often a CCTV camera overlooking the point of departure 
from the lending library. Normally, only one reader can 
exit at a time. Where theft is suspected, a discrete area 
should be provided for searching bags or clothing. 

As with all libraries, good lighting is essential if readers are 
to scan the books in comfort. Direct sunlight can fade bind- 
ings and cause discomfort, but natural light should not be 
dispensed with altogether. There are areas such as the en- 
trance foyer or exhibition gallery where sunlight is desirable, 
and even in the main reading room sunlight entering via 
a central rotunda can produce a pleasant space in which to 
read. Sunlight should normally be avoided in close proximity 
to the bookcases — here shadows, glare and fading are all 
problems. Blinds, louvres and curtains can all be used to 
ensure that daylight enters the main reading rooms without 
the problems of direct sunlight. In some modem libraries, 
electronically controlled blinds are employed in both win- 
dows and roof lights to moderate the internal environment. 

Major public libraries 

Alexandria Public Library, Egypt 

Known as the Bibliotheca Alexandria, the new and im- 
portant public library in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria 
has many of the characteristics of a national library. It 

Relationship between 
reading room, specialist 
libraries and stack 
rooms in a central 
library. (Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Alexandria Public Library with elevated pedestrian 
bridge. (Brian Edwards) 

contains rare and culturally valuable collections near the 
site of the world’s first library founded by Alexander 
the Great in the second century. Y et it functions also as the 
public library for Alexandria and, having the campus of 
the University of Alexandria on its doorstep, also serves 
a large student population. As a consequence, the library is 

Detail of alphabet inscribed wall of Alexandria Public 
Library. (Brian Edwards) 

Alexandria Public Library 
Architect Special features 

Snohetta • Hybrid of national and public library 

• Waterside site to help with urban 

• Inspired by Egyptian iconography 

• Large reading room over 4 floors 

• Linked conference facilities 

something of a hybrid and arguably benefits architecturally 
from the scale, complexity and ambiguity of its functions. 

Large public libraries have the habit of projecting the 
cultural values of the peoples they serve. They not only 
contain nationally important collections of printed matter, 
they also signify the centrality of the printed word through 
their approach to architectural design. This is no more 
evident than in the Bibliotheca Alexandria. Built in 2000, 
following an international architectural competition won 
by the relatively unknown Norwegian practice of Snohetta 
(named after the country’s highest mountain), the library 
opened in 2002 to considerable acclaim. 

Reading room at Alexandria Public Library. (Brian 


The public library 

The design of the Alexandria Public Library makes 
many references to both the classical and oriental worlds, 
yet it is decidedly modem in spirit. What makes the 
building significant is the way the contemporary cultural 
aspirations of Egypt are expressed without any hint of the 
building failing to serve its purpose as a major depository 
of printed treasures. A huge tilted disc which represents 
the sun and moon (images drawn from Egyptian funerary 
monuments) rises from the site boundary on Corniche 
Drive, on the edge of the Mediterranean, to become the 
roof of a massive seven-storey high reading room. The 
space inside is dramatic and fluid with seven main gal- 
leries housing seats for 2,500 scholars overlooking 
a central information, exhibition and control point placed 
half way up the building. The disc of the reading room is 
160 m in diameter and lit by a number of triangular 
slivers of roof glazing which deflect sunlight through 

diamond-shaped apertures to the reading room below. At 
night they provide the framework for artificial lighting 
which complements the desk lamps at every study desk. 
The use of green and blue strips of coloured glass cou- 
pled with distant views of the Mediterranean provides 
a colourful volume in which to contemplate the study 

The reading room roof is supported by a number of 
slender concrete columns which in turn hold up the seven 
main gallery floors. The columns are shaped to reduce their 
impact upon the views out to the sea and provide the library 
with essential structural articulation. Widely spaced, the 
columns end in pseudo capitals which evoke something of 
a classical precedent. The columns not only define the lines 
of beam roof lights above, they also help structure the 
space below for desks, stairs and bookcases. The resulting 
articulation of ceiling and floor helps give meaning to the 

Plan and section of 
Alexandria Public 
Library. (Snohetta 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

space in terms of the collection and the routes through the 
library from the different levels. 

The single big volume of the reading room with its 
many IT terminals represents the integration and inter- 
connectedness of knowledge. Although separate study 
areas are available for specialist readership, the geometric 
grandeur of the reading room suggests that all of human 
knowledge is available in this wonderful space. Problems 
of noise are overcome by the extensive use of acoustic 
panelling on walls and ceilings, and sound absorbent floor 
finishes. The use of the curved shape reduces deflected 
noise across the reading room. The effect is to provide the 
library with a background hum of activity but no peaks of 
disturbing noise even in the reprographic areas. 

The bulk of the collection of rare manuscripts and books 
is contained in a four-storey basement where conditions for 
protection and conservation are most favourable (Spring, 
2000). Books are delivered to the reader (as with most 
national libraries) rather than the reader retrieving study 
material directly from book stacks. However, a limited 
amount of more commonly used study material is available 
on each of the reading room galleries, where the stacks 
form an acoustic barrier between the access points, stairs 
and lifts and the centrally placed area of reader desks. The 
offices of librarians occupy a segment of the disc on each 
floor thereby allowing staff to readily oversee readers and 
help with their inquiries. 

From the outside the Alexandria Public Library has the 
eye-catching appeal of a pyramid with its allusions to the 
sun god Hathor. The sloping silver disc of the reading room 
breaks with the pattern of repetitive solid blocks of offices, 
hotels and apartment buildings which line the Mediterra- 
nean waterfront. The disc sits upon a circular granite wall 
with the alphabet in different languages carved into the 
stone in a fashion which evokes ancient Egyptian practice. 
The entrance is via a public plaza which is reached by 
crossing a circular lake onto a high-level walkway. This 
leads to a generous urban space which also contains the 
120-seat planetarium, cafe and conference centre. The 
geometry of the entrance sequences enhances the drama of 
using the library and the adjoining structures. Like the 
British Library, attention to urban design and pedestrian 
routes adds to the pleasure of studying at the building. It also 
ensures that the spectacular views across the Mediterranean 
are exploited for those who wish to take a break from in- 
tensive study. 

The materials of the library and the external surfaces of 
paving and seats are the same. The use of locally quarried 
granite in grey and black unifies the interior and exterior 
surfaces. This is most marked at the public entrance where 
a triple height reception area surfaced in granite leads via 
a glazed security screen to an information deck similarly 
surfaced. The use of black granite is reserved for stairs 
and wall panels around lifts where it contrasts with the 
blond wood of furniture. The theme of black, grey and pale 

yellows of wood veneers establishes the language of 
furniture design from book stacks to study desks. One 
clever attention to detail is the employment of the same 
finishes for the top of book stacks which, because of the 
cross-section, are often viewed from above. 

The decision to locate the library of Alexandria at the 
waterfront afforded the opportunity to regenerate the sea- 
port area of a city noted for problems of decay and rapid 
urbanization. The library acts as a symbol of national pride 
and projects an image of a forward-looking nation where 
the past coexists with a high-tech future, for, in spite of the 
8 million books (intended to rise to 15 million), every 
reader desk is equipped with wireless access to IT thereby 
providing the opportunity to work across media types. The 
combination of a progressive design coupled with a sense 
of history and environmental sensitivity led to the building 
receiving a coveted Aga Khan Award in 2004. 

Chicago Public Library 

Known as the Harold Washington Library, the Chicago 
Public Library is reputed to be the largest lending library in 
the world. Occupying the whole of a city block in down- 
town Chicago, the building is densely planned over 
10 storeys and finishes at the top in an attractive winter 
garden cum reading room. The layout is relatively simple: 
each floor is a self-contained subject library with associ- 
ated reading desks, computer suites and quiet study areas. 
The latter are distributed around the perimeter of the 
building where they gain access to daylight and can enjoy 
views over the city. 

This rather quirky post-modern library — won in 
competition in 1992 by the Professor of Architecture 
at Yale, Thomas Beeby, of Hammond Beeby Babka 
Architects — is rationally planned around a cruciform 
layout of circulation routes. Centrally placed escalators and 
stairs connect with large movement zones, which in turn 
provide access to information desks and banks of lifts. 
The axes and cross-axes open up interior views, making the 
library legible to users and displaying in one sweep the 
main aspects of the collection. The space between 
the circulation areas is filled with grids of book stacks, 
reading areas and support facilities such as copy machines. 
Escape stairs are sandwiched into the perimeter walls 
creating thick facades which, in their monumentality, recall 
the work of Louis Khan. 

The major and minor grids of the library provide an 
order which extends from the building master plan to the 
finest detail. In Chicago fashion, the lines and patterns are 
firmly etched into the building establishing a metaorder, 
which in turn organizes the collection of over 6 million 
volumes into a comprehendible whole. It is a pattern of 
repeating geometric parts which help establish the posi- 
tions of primary elements (book stacks) and minor ones 
(lighting, tables, floor finishes and cabling). Beeby sought 


The public library 

Chicago Public Library 

Architect Special features 

Beeby Babka 

• Inspired by Chicago-style 

• Quasi-department store layout 
with escalator-based 

• Traditional book-centred library 

• Integration of book-stacks, 
lighting and furniture layouts 

an ‘adaptable yet understandable building’ and, although 
there are similarities, each floor has a separate spatial 
subdivision which reflects the nature of the subject 

The library is rather like a department store with 
a number of entrances from the different streets that edge 
the urban block. These lead to a central information point 
and exhibition space, which in turn directs readers to the 
library on the nine floors above. Although there are lifts, 
users are encouraged to circulate through the library on the 
central bank of escalators, which in retail fashion, provide 
unfolding panoramas of the collection on the different 

The Chicago Public Library is essentially a book-based 
library with IT provision taking a secondary role. The book 
stacks are designed specifically for the building and are 
permanent parts of the architecture of the library. The same 
is true of the reader tables and the information desks. 
Hence, there is monumentality to the building with Beeby 
designing what he calls a ‘library of memories’ rather than 
an anonymous flexible shell ( Atlantic Monthly , 1992). 

Detail of fagade sculpture at Chicago Public Library. 
(Brian Edwards) 

From the outside, the library makes a number of ref- 
erences to the Beaux Arts architecture of Chicago. The 
building draws upon compositional ideas from the city’s 
great architects from Adler and Sullivan to Daniel 
Burnham and Frank Lloyd Wright. Rich in quotation and 
metaphor, the library is the epitome of post-modem 
neoclassicism. Complete with sculpture on the roof, 
a msticated granite base and arched windows which es- 
tablish an immediate rhythm and scale to the elevations, 
the Chicago Public Library is a building which belongs 
to its Midwestern place. This is a building which con- 
tinues the lengthy tradition in American cities of pro- 
viding libraries to assert pride in books, reading and the 
civic realm. 

Plan of Chicago Public 
Library. (Hammond 
Beeby Babka) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plan and section of Des Moines Public Library. (David 

Des Moines Public Library 


Special features 

David Chipperfield 

• Part of wider scheme of urban 


• Has landscaped roofs 

• Irregular angular layout 

• Part drive-in library 

Des Moines Public Library , Iowa 

Des Moines, the state capital of Iowa, is the location of 
another large civic library built as part of wider downtown 
regeneration in American cities. The library is arguably the 
major cultural anchor in many North American cities and 
caters for a wider social clientele than art galleries of sports 
centres. As such their location in the very heart of cities 
allows the public library to achieve more social gain than 
many other buildings. This is particularly true in Midwest 
Iowa where David Chipperfield Architects has designed an 
unorthodox yet eye-catching library. 

At two storeys high the building spreads irregularly 
across the large rectangular urban block of central Des 
Moines. Overlooked by high-rise corporate offices and 
standing alongside parking lots, the new public library has 
an inauspicious location. However, the zigzag footprint and 
turf-covered flat roof allow the building to compete. The 
non-orthogonal design puts emphasis on the ground floor 
where a number of non-library facilities are located as 
angled wings contrasting with the rigidity of the urban grid 
pattern. Here there is a cafe, bookshop, meeting room and 
gallery set as an introduction to the more traditional library 

Fagade detail showing window system at Des Moines 
Public Library. (David Chipperfield/AR) 


The public library 

spaces beyond. Like Seattle Public Library, this is a building 
for community use rather than simply for those intent upon 
borrowing a book. The angularity of the building creates 
interesting external spaces which are used for seating, ex- 
ternal chess, servicing the building and provide that 
American speciality — the drive-in library. The paved area 
adjoining the cafe also links into a city park to the west with 
the new library forming a termination amongst the trees. 

The books are held in open stacks on the ground and first 
floor with a back-up storage in the basement. Reader tables 
are placed mainly around the perimeter of the building and 
take advantage of the voids created by the colliding 
geometries of the wings and the stacks. An area for the 
special collection is tucked into an angle facing the street in 
one direction, and staff offices in another. In creating 
complex interior volumes Chipperfield has followed 
Koolhaas in Seattle, though here the complexity is hori- 
zontal rather than vertical. In contrast to the building’s 
geometry the services and structure are highly rational. 
A 400 mm deep raised floor provides access to services 
whilst the exposed surfaces of concrete beams and columns 
exploit thermal mass to moderate temperatures. Further 
energy efficiency is achieved by the sedum-planted flat 
roof (LeCuyer, 2006). 

View of Vancouver Public Library (on right) from new 
shopping mall. (Brian Edwards) 

The central atrium at Vancouver Public Library divides 
the main book stacks from perimeter reading areas. 
(Brian Edwards) 

The design of the library was chosen by the community 
when four options were offered by the architect. Chipper- 
field has produced a civic building which is sophisticated, 
understated and strangely appropriate. It sends a message 
of environmental and cultural responsibility without 
excessive posturing. Whilst the layout is unconventional, 
the emphasis placed on attracting people into the building, 
by careful focusing of pedestrian routes, ensures that the 
new library is stitched into the urban scene. In this it de- 
parts from normal urban practice in the Midwest. 

Vancouver Public Library, Canada 

Vancouver Public Library which opened in 1995 is part of 
a large redevelopment in the heart of the city. Besides the 
library, there is a federal government headquarters office, 
retail and tourist facilities, and extensive underground 
parking. The whole scheme was designed by Moshe Safdie 
and Associates as a unified statement of both architecture 
and civic design. 

The design is based on an oval and crescent and curved 
tower, producing a distinctive landmark for both library 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plan, Vancouver Public Library, Canada. (Moshe Safdie and Associates) 

and government administration. The public library is the 
central element and is designed as an ellipse separated from 
the other buildings by a roof-glazed crescent. This crescent 
is lined with shops and restaurants on the ground floor and 
defines the route to both library and offices. It is a wide 
promenade colonized by cafe tables and overlooked by the 
clear glazed wall of the library. 

The entrance into the library is via a delicate bridge 
which spans the moat surrounding the library’s outer walls. 
As visitors cross the bridge, they have the chance to look 
into the six-storey library. Since readers occupy the edge, 
with book stacks in the centre, the perimeter of the library 
is always animated with human life. The entrance leads to 
a large glazed cube which handles the control functions on 

one side and the exit ones on the other. This entrance cube, 
defined by structural columns, has the necessary trans- 
parency to encourage the visitor to explore the library’s 
many facilities. 

The Vancouver Public Library is one of many recently 
built libraries which reverses the traditional pattern of 
placing a reading room in the centre with book stacks at 
the periphery. Here the stacks and computers are in the 
air-conditioned rectangular core, with the reader spaces 
arranged against the glazed curved perimeter. The library is 
in effect a rectangle placed in an ellipse, where readers 
select their book from the shelves in the centre and walk to 
the edge where seats are placed against the sun-filled walls. 
It is a pattern of movement from dark to light and from 

Vancouver Public Library, Canada 


Special features 


Moshe Safdie & Associates (with Downs 

Integrated library, retail, auditorium and 

$2, 000/m 2 (approx) 

Archambault & Partners) 

government offices 

Places reader spaces at edge reached by 
internal bridges. 

Elliptical design with rectangular book stack core 

Employs daylight and sunlight to express route 
and volumes. 


The public library 

enclosed volumes to open ones, which Louis Kahn popu- 
larized a generation earlier in his design for the library at 
Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, USA. Safdie, conscious 
of Vancouver’s dramatic setting, placed a curved perimeter 
reading gallery where books could be studied whilst si- 
multaneously enjoying views of the street and distant 
mountains (Brawne, 1997). The bridges to the edge are 
both a means of expressing the movement and explaining 
the rationale behind the design. They also allow the edge to 
be separated from the core, permitting the reading galleries 
to be double height with lofty, fully glazed windows 
recalling a medieval precedent. 

The clarity of the plan is not compromised by energy 
conservation. Everywhere is air-conditioned with raised 
floors for ducts and IT cables throughout. This allows for 
a high level of flexibility of layout, but at additional cost in 
terms of energy consumption, maintenance and construc- 
tion. It does, however, provide the means to create 
a memorable library and one whose handling of daylight 
and space is exemplary. The separating of the core from the 
perimeter reading gallery allows light to penetrate deep 
into the library, and the curved glazed street between the 
library and the office tower deflects afternoon sunlight into 
the building. Although this is a large library (over a million 
books), the clarity of organization and the guidance pro- 
vided through the building by light (especially sunlight) 
sets a useful pattern for public libraries of the future. 

This library, shopping crescent and adjoining piazzas are 
further evidence of the maturing of libraries as public 
meeting places beyond that of buildings merely to read or 
borrow a book. Just as art galleries (such as the Guggenheim 
in Bilbao, Spain) have become buildings to visit in their own 

Montreal Public Library 


Special features 


• Part of wider investment in civic realm 


• Layout inspired by the ‘mall’ 

• Adjacent to bus station for social 


• Nature used as design metaphor 

right, the same is true of larger public libraries. The 
Vancouver Public Library is rather more a cultural and civic 
facility than a library as such. By the skilful design of the 
various public elements, Safdie has fashioned a building 
that serves as a library in the traditional sense but also caters 
for broader social need. 

Montreal Public Library 

The Grande Bibliotheque du Quebec is one of a number of 
libraries recently constructed in Canada over the past 
decade. Similar in scale and ambition to Vancouver Public 
Library and the refurbished and extended Toronto Public 
Library, this large library in Montreal continues with the 
theme of enriching the civic realm through the building 
of public libraries. Canada has an enviable reputation for 
municipal investment in the physical and cultural in- 
frastructure of its cities. Montreal is no exception and the 
new library designed by Patkau Architects complements 
the slightly earlier provision of modem art galleries, the 

Ground (below) and 
upper floor plan of 
Montreal Public Library. 
(Patkau Architects/AR) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

extended and upgraded Metro, and improvements to vari- 
ous urban spaces. 

The new library has a less than distinguished location. 
Near to the Montreal Bus Station and several anonymous 
office blocks of 1970s construction, only the gothic spires 
of Victorian churches and French chateau-style apartments 
relieve the tedium of the immediate urban landscape. The 
design draws upon the idea of the mall, which is a triple 
height space along the southern frontage. It has the main 
entrance at one end and meeting rooms and lecture theatre 
at the other. With banners hanging through the three floors 
of the side-glazed mall and with shops, cafes and kiosks 
along its length, the impression suggests one of Montreal’s 
shopping streets. However, its main purpose is to orientate 
users through a large and complex building, and to provide 
glimpses at different levels into the main library. 

The book stacks are arranged on four floors in conven- 
tional fashion with study spaces around the edges. These 
follow a pattern not unlike that at Vancouver Public 
Library of forming bridges which project from the stack 
areas and overlook public spaces. As such, to read or study 
here is also to participate in the wider ambiance of the 
library. A more private and quiet reading room is provided 
at the east end of the building. This is architecturally 
a dramatic three-storey high space with roof lights above 
and timber louvred walls on all sides. Study tables are 
arranged in neat rows giving the impression that this is 
a space for serious scholars. 

Like Will Binder’ s Phoenix Public Library built in 
1996, there is both a celebration of the book and of the 
reader in the Montreal Public Library. Unlike some recent 
libraries in the UK, there is less emphasis on youth culture, 
IT provision and wider social engagement. Although these 

exist, the book is the dominant determinant of character 
and architectural order. The rational planning of the library 
leads to rectangular volumes and well ordered spatial 
sequences. In this respect, the Montreal Public Library 
differs from that of the similar sized Seattle Library built at 
substantially greater cost (Boddy, 2006). 

The library is highly glazed on the south side in order to 
light the mall, draw daylight into the book-stack and reader 
areas, and provide views in from the busy pavement edge. 
However, the extent of clear glazing on the south side 
posed problems of solar gain and glare, which Patkau 
overcame by employing green glass louvres and tinted 
glass. The effect is to bathe the library in a verdant hue 
which, when added to the extensive use of timber inside 
and tall slender concrete columns, hints at the forests of 
Quebec. As a result, both the collection with its emphasis 
on French Canadian literary culture and the building seem 
specific to place. 

Seattle Public Library 

Designed by OMA under the direction of Rem Koolhaas, the 
Seattle Public Library seeks almost to reinvent the library as 
a civic institution. It does so in the USA where the public 
library is one of the few anchors of civilization left in 
downtown areas. The building breaks certain rules of library 
orthodoxy such as the supremacy of the reading room, the 
dominance at least in terms of perception of the book, and 
the need for use legibility —that is the ability to recognize the 
building for what it is, e.g. a public library. Whereas other 
reinterpretations of the type (as in the public libraries at 
Brighton and Bournemouth in the UK, or Vancouver in 
Canada) still remain recognizable in function, the public 


Section through Seattle 
Public Library. (OMA/ 


The public library 

Seattle Public Library 


Special features 


• Signature building to contrast with 


adjoining cityscape 

• Spiral arrangement of collection 

• Large vertical reading room 

• Extensive non-library accommodation 

library in Seattle creates considerable ambiguity. OMA has 
created an eye-catching civic monument but its use as a li- 
brary is only evident on close examination. 

Commentators will argue that as the public library 
changes its use to better serve the needs of the twenty-first 
century, the form and image of the building need to change 
as well. Koolhaas and his team have designed a structure of 
facetted, cranked and inter-connected glazed walls which 
stand in contrast to the rectangular regularity of neoclass- 
ical Chicago Library and modernist Seattle. As such, the 
architectural relief upon seeing the building for the first 
time is enormous. However, enjoying the building as an 
external spectacle is only one part of the architect’s chal- 
lenge in designing a major public library. The others 
concern defining the entrance, establishing a clear bound- 
ary between inside and out, providing a hint of internal 
activities to external viewers, establishing a hierarchy of 
internal volumes and ensuring the building performs well 
functionally and environmentally. 

The landscape of the triangulated modules of the 
glazed envelop encloses a huge entrance foyer where 
many non-library activities take place. The foyer is 
a public space for the community rather than a lobby to 
a library. Here there are exhibition spaces, an auditorium, 
bookshop, coffee shop, play areas for children, dens for 
young people and an information point for the main li- 
brary. The soaring and spatially complex entrance hall, 
which varies in height from two to five storeys, leads to 
a spirally organized switchback ramp of book stacks 
angled at 2 degrees. The ramp is like a street impercep- 
tibly rising to the next block although, instead of rows of 
houses, here there are parallel stacks of books. The ramp 
has the effect of removing the perception of floors, which 
can divide libraries into separate subject zones thereby 
undermining the connectivity of knowledge. There are 
two main entrances to the building on opposite sides of 
the sloping city block adding to the justification for the 
generous entrance volume which rises in part through all 
1 1 storeys of the library. 

Once through the spiral of book stacks the user reaches 
a reading room which contains a large panoramic window 
overlooking the city. The reading room provides glimpses 
down into the stack areas and up to the sky. To one side 
stands a tier of offices for library staff perched at the top of 
the building. 

The Seattle Public Library has few enclosed spaces and 
not many walls or floors which are in normal architectural 
alignments. As a result, the experience is memorable if 
sometimes disconcerting. The disconnection between the 
exterior glazed envelop and the internal concrete structure, 

Successful modern 
libraries should be 
dynamic buildings. 
Peckham Public Library 
designed by Alsop and 
Stormer. (Brian 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Peckham Public Library, London, UK 


Special features 


Alsop and Stormer 

Seeks a popular new image for public libraries. 

Raises library above ground to exploit light, view and silence. 

Places special activities in sculptural pods. 

Bold and radical structural form. 

£1 ,900/m 2 (approx.) 

justified partly on seismic grounds (Rattenbury, 2004), 
allows the building to perform well socially and environ- 
mentally. This is a library which breaks with convention on 
many fronts. The brief was developed in close collabora- 
tion with the local community and the library staff in 
Seattle. As a result the building contains much art, colour 
and refreshing west coast innovation. OMA has exploited 

the current flux in library typology to create a building that 
promises to be a measure of municipal ambition in future 
library design (Lamprecht, 2004). According to Koolhaas, 
the continuous circulation ramp through the library allows 
the user to engage with the lyrical context of the sur- 
roundings whilst providing a clear statement of the pro- 
grammatic diagram. 

Plans, Peckham Public Library. 
(Alsop and Stormer) 


The public library 

Section through 
Afro-Caribbean study 
pod. (Alsop and 

Medium-sized Public Libraries 

Peckham Public Library, London, UK 

Peckham Public Library designed by Alsop and Stormer 
also breaks the mould of public library design. It does so by 
dissolving the difference between inside and outside, cre- 
ating a building of different parts united by a ground plane 
of crisp paving and a universal envelope of glass and bright 
blue panelling. Although it is a library, Tibraryness’ is 
not evident; instead the building looks rather more like 
a theatre or the stage for a pop concert. 

Such references are deliberate: the architect and client 
sought a library which would appeal across age, ethnic and 
cultural barriers. They also wanted a building which gave 
fun back to borrowing a book and which would act as 
a symbol of social regeneration in a deprived area of South 

The library is built off the ground, giving the area in 
which it sits back to community. The library entrance is 
relatively understated — a timber ramp and a glazed cube 
viewed through a wire mesh. The main areas of the library 
are up high, viewed through a mainly glazed wall set back 
behind a thrusting cantilevered balcony. The balcony, 
which is set up high upon slender angled legs, affords 
protection to the entrance to both the library and the ad- 
joining council information centre. The library entrance 
itself is minimal — a mere glazed lobby with a pair of lifts 
and a staircase taking visitors directly to the library above. 

The library is placed up high to give maximum access to 
daylight on a congested urban site. Being up high also 

reduces the impact of local traffic noise whilst providing 
readers with distant panoramas over London (including 
a view of the Tate Modern at Bankside four miles to the 
north). Visitors arrive in the library proper after passing 
through an intermediate floor of staff rooms. The arrival is 
dramatic and unexpectedly airy. Where the ground level is 
busy with the noise and bustle of London life, the library on 
the second floor seems to float at roof level. The effect is 
enhanced by the high ceiling and the presence of three 
copper-clad pods positioned like giant coconuts within the 
main reader room. Sitting on angled concrete legs, they 
break through the roof to animate the skyline. Each pod 
holds an activity of special interest — the largest is the 
Afro-Caribbean literature collection while the two smaller 
pods house a children’s library and a meeting room. They 
are metaphors for buildings within streets — creating in this 
high-level space ambiguity about inside and outside, and 
between collection and reading areas. 

The act of reading a book benefits from the silence, view 
and sunlight created by placing the reading room 12 m in 
the air. Light is carefully orchestrated to pick out the 
functional high points in the building. It spills down the 
sides of the pods, generating tranquil reading areas at 
the library edge and, by forming a glazing band between 
wall and ceiling, gives the impression of a floating roof. By 
way of contrast, the north facing facade is clear glazed to 
bring neutral light deep into the book-stack areas. 

This library breaks many conventions. It abandons the 
pavement level in favour of an idealized world for books in 
the sky. It celebrates special collections and activities by 
placing them in distinctive curved containers, which stand 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Model, Norwich Public Library. St Peter Mancroft 
Church is to the right. (Michael Hopkins and Partners) 

reading. This building breaks with convention and charts 
a path of a more inclusive, lively and appealing public 
library for the future. 

In spite of winning the Stirling Prize in 2000 as the UK’s 
Building of the Year, reservations have been expressed 
over the library’s fidelity to function. Some see the design 
as too influenced by pop art, claiming in the words of the 
Scottish architect Richard Murphy that the building is ‘just 
a big gesture’ (Sudjic, 2000). Certainly the library has the 
kind of impact needed in a multicultural area of South 
London — it uses colour and cantilevered structure to signal 
public presence across the rooftops. But as Murphy points 
out, the relationship between the parts, especially the 
shelving, appears haphazard and one wonders why the 
readers are discouraged from working at the perimeter of 
the building. 

Norwich Public Library, Norfolk, UK 

free like market stalls apart from the bustle. The reading 
room is of double height to lift the spirit and provide 
a volume which gives dignity to reading and borrowing 
a book. As a design, the library gives more importance to 
the cross-section than the plan. Order in plan appears to be 
sublimated by spatial drama acted out in section. 

The details of the library also depart from orthodoxy. 
Book stacks placed almost at random sit within rectangular 
floor plans. Although some radiate towards the library desk, 
others make reference to the irregular axiality of the three 
pods. Windows too are not evenly spaced, but patterned to 
create a large abstract composition of parallelograms of 
varying size. With tinted glass and blue cladding, the effect 
recalls the joyfulness of cinema or theme park design. 

These various design effects are part of a deliberate 
strategy to appeal across social and cultural divides 
(Melvin, 2000). This is meant to be a popular building, 
cherished by the inner city community that it serves. 
Modem public libraries are no longer simply places to 
borrow books — they are buildings in which to meet friends, 
to hold meetings and to introduce children to the pleasure of 

The rebuilding of Norwich Public Library after a fire in 
1994 provided the opportunity to create an architectural 
and civic landmark to celebrate the new millennium in 
England’s second largest historic city. Designed by 
Michael Hopkins and Partners, the new building is a horse- 
shoe-shaped building containing an atrium and library. The 
accommodation of the library — including a multimedia 
auditorium, learning and business centres — is arranged in 
a continuous curved wing to the rear of an atrium which 
provides a generous entrance space set back behind a new 
public square. This new public space for Norwich focuses 
upon the medieval church of St Peter Mancroft. A large 
glazed wall facing the church brings both into play as an 
urban spectacle and invites entry into the library atrium as 
part of a continuous pedestrianized network of spaces in 
central Norwich (M. Taylor and C. Endicott, Michael 
Hopkins and Partners, personal communication, 2000). 

The footprint of the library responds to the scale of 
the surrounding urban pattern and its three-storey height 
shares that of the City Hall immediately to the north. 
The atrium has roughly the dimensions of the ground 

Norwich Public Library, Norfolk, UK 


Special features 


Michael Hopkins and Partners 

Stitched into historic core of Norwich 

Creates a square and public atrium on an axis with church. 

Atrium-based library on horseshoe plan 

Maximizes daylight to reduce energy use. 

Moderates environmental conditions via a naturally ventilated atrium. 


£1 ,250/m 2 


The public library 

Plan, Norwich Public 
Library. Designed by 
Michael Hopkins and 
Partners. (Michael 
Hopkins and Partners) 

plan of St Peter Mancroft Church, allowing it to slide 
into the space conceptually. The height of the library 
(three storeys plus a concealed attic of offices) allows 
the tower and spire of the church to dominate the scene 
and provide a point of orientation from within the li- 
brary. As with the new library in Munster, a nearby 
church tower is used to landmark and identify the 
presence of a public building. 

The library is approached via a square which is at the 
crossing of two axes — one along the colonnaded face of the 
City Hall, the other on the axis of the church. These 
pre-existing pedestrian routes extend into the new library. 
This not only allows the entrance square and internal 
atrium space to be read as a continuation of familiar spaces, 
but also provides clarity of layout for the library. Upon 
arrival through the glass wall, all is visible and the ac- 
commodation of the library feels like an extension of the 
urban scene. The advantage of this strategy is to give the 
library a certain ambiguity as to what is inside and out, and 
what is front and back. It is an ambiguity which removes 
pomposity and invites use for a variety of purposes. 

The accommodation of the library is housed in a con- 
tinuous, narrow, curved wall which wraps around the 
atrium. The wall is 12 m deep to allow for the maximum 

penetration of daylight and controlled sunlight. As a 
Millennium Project, the Norwich Public Library seeks to 
address the environmental challenge of low-energy 
design, whilst creating a distinctive city landmark. Since 
artificial lighting is the largest element of energy use in 
a typical library (followed closely by air-conditioning), 
the challenge is one of maximizing the use of natural light 
without incurring the penalty of unwanted solar gain. Here 
the solution is to employ load-bearing brick construction 
and exposed reinforced concrete floor slabs — taking 
advantage of their high thermal capacity to moderate 
temperatures whilst exploiting the support provided for 
facade shading. Hence, daylight is allowed to penetrate 
the library spaces but in a controlled fashion relative to 
potential solar gain. 

The atrium within the centre of the library is designed 
to be used as a new covered mall in central Norwich. 
Arcades and covered market spaces already exist nearby, 
giving the atrium a sense of urban continuity. However, 
it serves an important environmental function as a source 
of solar heated air, which can be distributed to other 
parts of the library in the winter and readily ejected 
through the roof in the summer. The floor of the atrium 
is paved in tiles to provide a link with the external square 


The public library 

Brighton Public Library 

Architect Special features 

Bennetts • Part of comprehensive urban 

Associates regeneration 

• Establishes new square at front linked to 
ground floor reading room 

• Innovative environmental features 

• Mainly book-based library 

• Won Prime Minister’s Better Public 
Building Award, 2005 

• Short-listed for Stirling Prize, 2005 

and has underfloor heating to provide conditions that 
allow the atrium to be used for exhibitions or recitals. 

Atrium-based libraries can suffer from noise distur- 
bance. The solution employed here is to restrict the pene- 
tration of sound from the atrium by placing a corridor on 
the inside face of the various library areas. This double 
wall, together with acoustic insulation in the shelving, 
walls and ceiling, ensures that study conditions are 
acceptable in the library. 

The library provides a complex range of accommo- 
dation on three floors. There are various specialist 
libraries (the USAF Second Air Division Memorial Li- 
brary on the ground floor and the Norfolk Studies Library 

Social space at Brighton Public Library with 
abstract mural. (Bennetts Associates) 

on the second floor) plus a heritage visitor centre, tourist 
information, restaurant, auditorium, learning centre and 
multimedia facilities. Only the latter accommodation is 
differentiated in plan; the remainder of the library pro- 
vides for flexibility of library and office layout. A large 
area of mobile storage stacks in fire-resistant 
accommodation exists on the second floor (built to BS 
5454). The high specification here is a legacy of the fire 
in 1994, which destroyed much of the library collection. 
The main library is located on the first floor in a large 
semi-circular space, which fills most of the D-shaped 

The Norwich Public Library, partly funded through 
the UK National Lottery, provides much innovative 
thinking. Although primarily a library, this is a public 
building in the full sense of the term. It provides a range 
of facilities to support the community and does so in 
a building which is conspicuously accessible. The plan is 
figured as much by external conditions as by the de- 
mands of accommodation. The main atrium space, which 
was created as a gateway to the building, acts also as 
a public forum and environmental moderator. In this 
sense, the blurring of functionality and the blending of 
civic and environmental concerns are a precursor for 
future library design. 

Brighton Public Library 

Known as the Jubilee Library, Brighton Public Library was 
created as part of a larger scheme of urban regeneration in 
the centre of Brighton (see pages xx— xx). Its immediate 
neighbours are large retail units, and the pattern of external 
spaces is one of malls and pedestrian squares. Designed by 

Night-time view of Brighton Public Library. The build- 
ing glows at night like the adjoining retail 
development. (Bennetts Associates) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Bennetts Associates (in collaboration with local architects 
Lomax Cassidy and Edwards) Brighton Public Library was 
shortlisted for the Stirling Prize and won the Prime 
Minister’s Award for public architecture in 2005. The 
library is significant in three ways: 

• in the approach to urban design and the role of cross- 
subsidizing the library with revenue from commercial 

• in the type of spaces created in order to broaden the 
appeal of the library, particularly for young people 

• in the attention paid to sustainable design practices. 

The master plan reinstates elements of the old street pattern 
lost in earlier development. A new urban cross-street 
(known as Jubilee Street) links together two city blocks and 
provides the public access to the library via a new square. 
The street and adjoining malls have a retail character which 
spreads to the entrance of the Jubilee Library. A new urban 
square acts as a buffer zone between the two worlds and 
allows the library to extend its presence outwards. Here 
seats and public sculpture establish the square as a civic 
place interacting with the commercial world. 

The library has a fully glazed fagade to the square 
thereby allowing the internal world of books, magazines 
and computer terminals to challenge the assertiveness of 
the retail environment. The dialogue across the new square 
between public and private interests heightens the tension 
of arrival at the library. The plan of the library places 
a large reading room in the centre with study spaces, 
meeting rooms, shops and offices around the perimeter. 
Bennetts Associates was keen that the building was a place 
of repose and presence where the character was civic rather 
than IT-based ( Architecture Today , 2005). The repose 
comes from the double height reading room lit by daylight 
spilling from above through large apertures around the 
edge of the floor plate. 

The library entrance faces south across the square. 
Inside there is a grid on two levels of four pairs of concrete 
columns which fan out to support the floors. The effect is to 
define the functional territories inside thereby ensuring that 
the book stacks and reading areas have an orderly re- 
lationship to the architecture. As a consequence, the layout 
of columns and linking bridges dictates the use of space 
socially and the effect is to give the book primacy over the 
computer screen. The relationship between space, structure 
and light is carefully considered and this establishes the 
primary order for the working of the library. Unlike other 
recent examples, the demands of IT provision do not 
override the interests of the library as a building engaging 
with its literary purpose and with the outside world. 

Immediately inside the entrance, the library has a large 
magazine and newspaper area with soft seats. To one side 
there is an exhibition area and to the other there is a cafe 
which extends into the square. The effect is to provide 

a welcoming introduction to the library with the minimum 
of fortress connotations. The library is centrally planned 
around its columned reading room. Specialist spaces such 
as the rare books collection and audiovisual library are 
located around the edge where specific environmental 
conditions can be provided. 

The central library space is naturally lit and largely 
naturally ventilated. The south facing glazed wall coupled 
with the thermal mass of the concrete frame, the wooden 
acoustic panelling on the walls and the apertures in the 
floors (both centrally and around the periphery) provide 
a high level of environmental sustainability. The ventilat- 
ing chimneys and Termodeck floors reduce the summer 
energy load whilst giving the library the benefits of recir- 
culated warmed air for winter heating (Evans, 2005). 

Bournemouth Public Library 

Opened in 2002, Bournemouth Public Library won the 
Prime Minister’s Award for Better Public Building in 
2003, two years before a similar award was made to 
Brighton Public Library. Both libraries have in common 
their attention to both library design and to the wider 
challenge of reinstating former street patterns in order to 
enhance the civic realm. At Bournemouth the historic line 
of the town high street was re-established with a triangular 
square created opposite the library entrance, which is po- 
sitioned at the corner of the site. As a result of respecting 
the archaeology of the place, the new library is organic in 

Like many new UK libraries, there is a combination 
of retail and library facilities within the development. 
A cluster of shops runs along the street frontage at ground 
floor level with the library above. The arrangement gives 
the library attractive views over the town whilst main- 
taining continuity in the high street activities. A triple 
height foyer set behind the glazed elevation to the street 
provides space for a generous curving staircase and open 
lift, and a cafe to one side. The routes into the library are 
legible and accessible with high levels of natural light and 
visibility. The stair leads not just to the library at first floor 
level but to a double height exhibition area and adjacent 
children’s library, gallery space, local archives collection, 
music library and performance space, and a business 

Compared to the amoeba-like plan, the section is rela- 
tively straightforward. The three-storey building has a 
curved roof which over-sails slightly to achieve a measure 
of solar gain. Four ventilating cowls project from the roof 
and allow the library to be naturally cooled without the 
intrusion of street noise. Large areas of glass provide good 
visibility into the building whilst also delivering to the deep 
plan areas a relatively high level of natural light. The 
attention to sustainable construction allows the library 


The public library 

Elevations of Bourne- 
mouth Public Library. 

(as also at Brighton) to establish a benchmark for com- 
mercial development in the town. 

The library is a civic building in the full sense of the term. 
It engages in the life of Bournemouth directly through 
proximity to the web of retail and commercial facilities. 
However, the mix of uses at the library and its elevated po- 
sition ensure that the building is both inclusive in character 
yet set aside sufficiently from the bustle of street life to be 
seen as a public institution. Funded under the UK’s Public 
Private Finance Initiative, the new library sets a useful 
benchmark for twenty-first century information buildings. 

Idea Stores, Tower Hamlets, London 

The ‘idea store’ concept was coined by the Learning 
Spaces Consortium as a means of regenerating the concept 

and content of public libraries. The consortium consisted 
of the architectural practice Regeneration Partnership, 
planning consultants Urban Practitioners, the Chartered 
Institute of Library Professionals and branding consultants 
Bisset Adams (Blackman, 2003). Two libraries have been 
completed to date for the London Borough of Tower 
Hamlets based on the idea store principle — one in 
Whitechapel Road, the other in Crisp Street. Both are based 
upon the ambition of attracting more users to public 
libraries by diversifying the services on offer, changing the 
image of a library as a building type, and by refiguring the 
pattern of spaces both internal and external. In many ways 
the idea store concept is a direct response to the Cabe report 
titled Better Public Libraries which blamed outmoded 
design and poor location for a 17% decline in visits to 
public libraries over the previous decade (Blackman, 

Plan of Bournemouth 
Public Library. (BDP) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

View of Whitechapel Idea Store from local street 
market. (Brian Edwards) 

2003). What was proposed in this influential report was 
a change of image for the library >from that of a ‘temple of 
knowledge’ to a ‘living room in the city’. 

The idea stores in Tower Hamlets seek to make the 
library a vital part of the local community by combining 
traditional library facilities with a wide range of social, 
leisure and educational facilities. The latter include 

Idea Stores: Tower Hamlets 


Special features 


• Emphasis on social inclusion 


• Large community and educational areas 

• Top floor cafe for meetings 

• Coloured facades inspired by local 

street markets 

• Short-listed for Stirling Prize, 2006 

a modern dance studio, a specialist space for teaching 
complementary therapies, new multimedia area, life-long 
learning rooms connected directly to local schools and 
colleges, and a cafe. A feature of both libraries is the at- 
tention paid to inclusive design and the direct connection 
between local retail areas and the library. 

The idea store name suggests openness, customer focus 
and an intriguing hint of something new and different 
(Evans, 2004). Both libraries are designed by Adjaye 
Associates and achieve these ambitions by focusing 
upon transparency, large public display areas, generous 
circulation spaces and interesting book-stack layouts. The 
entrances to both libraries link directly to the network of 
streets and lanes used by locals to reach shops and street 
markets. At the Whitechapel idea store a cross-street leads 
directly to a Sainsbury’s store whilst the main frontage is 
onto the popular street market which extends from White- 
chapel underground station to the new library. As a result the 
idea store is seen as part of the rich social mix of the com- 
munity and shares architecturally in some of its imagery, 
such as the green and blue striped market stall awnings 
which Adjaye Associates translates into the curtain wall. A 
similar effect is seen at the Crisp Street Library where the 
colours of the glazing pick up those of nearby trees and the 
sky whilst also alluding to those of its sponsor, Lloyds bank. 

Plan and section of Idea Store, Whitechapel. (Adjaye Associates) 


The public library 

Both libraries use escalators as the main means of taking 
readers to the upper floors. The use of both escalators and 
stairs (and lifts for the elderly and disabled) is user-friendly, 
opens up the interior to ambiguous diagonal views and hints 
at a retail experience. The entrance doors in both libraries 
expose users to a variety of options. There are book return 
points (mostly electronic and self-operated), information 
desks, open learning zones, exhibition spaces and, on upper 
floors, there is a combination of adult, teen and children’s 
libraries with cafes and meeting rooms above. 

Both idea stores include a large number of classrooms 
that are networked to local colleges and universities. The 
aim is to erode the distinction between different types of 
public provision in the field of knowledge dissemination 
and use — blending in this case education, community well- 
being, social networking and library facilities. The library 
areas break with tradition and use curving book stacks 
which are kept relatively low to allow the sense of interior 
space to flow. Desks and light fittings were designed by the 

architect and when combined with red and green rubber 
stud flooring create a memorable and inviting interior 
aimed primarily at new library users. The Whitechapel idea 
store was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2006. 

Public Library, Munster, Germany 

This library is a model of fitting a large public building into 
a dense urban area. Lying in the eastern quarter of the old 
city of Munster, the new public library is split to frame 
a view of the fifteenth century tower of Lamberti Church. 
The division of the library into segments allows the 
building to be less monolithic and hence more easily 
absorbed into historic Munster. It also facilitates the 
identification of separate parts of the library to serve dif- 
ferent needs. The acknowledgement of the church tower in 
the articulation of plan is fitting since Munster means 
Minster — a clear reference in built form to the city’s re- 
ligious origins. Keeping the church tower in view also 

Plan of Idea Store, Crisp 
Street, London. Notice 
the retail units on the 
ground floor (below) and 
the community meeting 
rooms on the first floor 
(above). (Adjaye 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plan, Munster Public Library, 
Germany. (Bolles-Wilson and 

allows the new library to be located by its proximity to the 
older neighbour (Blundell Jones, 1994). 

The split of the library accommodation into two main 
parts creates a central, narrow, new street in the dense 
urban fabric, which itself has become part of the network of 
pedestrian routes and alleyways. A library bridge joining 
the two parts terminates one end of this street and allows 
the other to focus on the church. Whilst new public 

libraries generally derive their plan from functional needs 
alone, this one gives prominence to external conditions. It 
was the recognition of this balance which allowed its 
young Anglo— German architects Bolles-Wilson and Part- 
ners to win the design competition for the commission in 

Initially the building was to be divided into a library and 
museum, but as the project developed it was decided to 


The public library 

Munster Public Library, Germany 


Special features 


Bolles-Wilson and Partners 

Design opens up new views of historic city. 

Building dramatically split between lending and reference wings. 

New street formed on important church axis. 

Informal, relaxed interior library environment. 

Not available 

build a library only. The division into two parts suited the 
split between public library and public museum use, but the 
architects found that as a library alone the division into two 
elements allowed the public lending and reference libraries 
to be expressed separately (Blundell Jones, 1994). Such an 
arrangement also gave prominence to the bridge joining the 
two zones together, allowing its symbolic importance to 
justify its urban role as a counterpoint to the axial termi- 
nation of Lamberti Church. 

Bifurcation expresses functionality, with the connecting 
bridge at first floor level being the main point of arrival and 
control into the library. All visitors enter via a raised ter- 
race edged by cafes and the newspaper reading room. The 
entrance route is informal recalling the pattern elsewhere in 
historic Munster — a series of terraces, steps and curved 
walls. Since both wings of the library (lending and refer- 
ence) are roughly of equal volume, the visitor is guided 
towards the information point by a slot of light drawn in by 
opening up the sky immediately above. The splitting of 
roof and wall to allow for the penetration of light at key 
points in the library allows hierarchy to be established 
without resorting to excessive signage. 

This is a library of complex, subtle spaces. Although 
there are rooms, this public library is a series of inter- 
connecting spaces. The circulation is given directionality 
by the play of light and view. Internal activities such as 
reading areas, book stacks and control desks are located 
according to external features. They almost occupy vol- 
umes left over from the wider urban scene. The building 

flows and projects externally to exploit views over rooftops 
or to provide quiet study spaces overlooking gardens. In 
this sense, it is difficult to detect an internal rationale in the 
disposition of plan and section, but it is a delight to engage 
so directly in the world of historic Munster from within the 
new library. 

This is a library of routes, views and ambiguous func- 
tion. The same general shape of room serves as offices, 
public reading areas or lecture room. The specific demands 
of different activities do not alter the spaces much — this is 
both a weakness and strength. It denies space much func- 
tional identity, but it provides the opportunity to alter the 
use of different library areas over time. Only the reference 
library, placed in a curved wing on the south side of the 
building, has the scale and presence to recall Tibraryness’ 
in a traditional sense. Elsewhere there is informality and, 
alongside the cafe, a conviviality which seems deliberately 
to break down functional barriers. 

This is a public library whose measured asymmetry and 
fragmentation of form makes it a piece of urban sculpture 
worthy of a visit irrespective of the need to search out and 
borrow a book. It is the sort of building in which to meet 
friends, to have a cup of coffee and to watch the world go 
by. ‘Libraryness’ may be less evident inside and out than in 
other more modern public libraries — certainly the building 
lacks a sense of seriousness of purpose — but the informal 
and relaxed nature of the interior makes it an appropriate 
response to library design in the culturally aware city of 

Malmo Public Library, Sweden 


Special features 


Henning Larsen Tegnestue A/s 

Major extension to existing public library 

£1 ,400/m 2 for building (approx.) 

Uses transparency to signal democratic ideals. 

Has unusual environmental strategy. 

Places readers in tall glazed slots around building 

£300/m 2 for fittings (approx.) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

South Elevation, Malmo 
Public Library. (Henning 
Larsen Tegnestue A/s) 

Malmo Public Library, Sweden 

Malmo Public Library, which was constructed in 1901 by 
the national romantic architect John Smedberg, was ex- 
tensively refurbished and extended by Henning Larsen in 
1995. It is a large public library with a book collection of 
over half a million, journal subscriptions to nearly 1,500 
periodicals and 1.5 million loans of books, videos and CDs 
every year. Larsen’s extension, which more than doubled 
the size of the library, consists of a new shared entrance 
rotunda placed midway between old and new and a large 
three-storey non-fiction and IT library. All visitors now 
enter via the rotunda either from a road or an opposite 
entrance linked to a walk through a nearby park. Within the 
rotunda are placed the information desk, returns counter 
and an orientation display on each floor. Glazed bridges 
then take the visitor into the old library (fiction) or the new 
(reference and IT). 

The simplicity is essential to steer visitors around 
a complex collection of study and loan material. Architec- 
turally, the routes are clearly defined with long views 
through the building and out into the nearby park. 
The collection is generally stored within the core of the 
building, with study and circulation spaces around 

the outside. The exception to this arrangement is on the 
south side of the library where the collection is placed 
against the walls to provide solar protection. Here, in con- 
trast to the highly glazed north, east and west elevations, the 
windows are small and the walls thick in construction. 

A central triple height space exists as a dramatic cele- 
bration of reading near the centre of the Larsen extension. 
Galleries are taken around the perimeter of this space, 
providing the opportunity to look into the volume from the 
three floor levels. Stairs rise up through the space giving 
further animation to the volume. 

Study spaces are positioned next to the glazed li- 
brary perimeter. Some of these volumes are double and 
triple in height, while others are reached by delicate 
bridges from the book-stack area. The effect is to 
create a unique environment for readers, not quite 
inside or outside the building: a transparent zone be- 
tween the bookshelves and the trees outside — a place 
to reflect upon the material read. In other aspects too 
the library is a play upon opposites — of solid and open 
areas, long vistas and closely terminated ones, of old 
and new technologies, sunlit and shaded areas. The 
building achieves Tibraryness’ without resorting to 
classical overtones and without disguising the open and 

Site plan, Malmo Public Library. 
The original library is to the left. 
(Henning Larsen Tegnestue A/s) 


The public library 

Upper floor plan, Malmo 
Public Library. (Henning 
Larsen Tegnestue A/s) 

self-navigating nature of library provision. Trans- 
parency is both an architectural feature and Larsen’s 
way of signalling the democratic traditions upon which 
public libraries in Sweden are based. 

Champaign Public Library, Illinois 

Situated in the small university town of Champaign in 
America’s Midwest, the new public library is an interesting 
example of a community-based facility. Besides a lending 
library there is a conference centre, meeting rooms, cafe, 
children’s library and teens area. The library aims to be 
a gathering place for the local community and presents an 
inviting face to this nondescript town. To encourage social 
interaction, there is a small planted square to the west side 
of the library and the building itself is raised on a plinth to 
signal its civic status. 

Although the library is only two storeys high (with 
a third floor mezzanine for library administration), it has 
a verticality in the rhythms of the facade and internally 

Champaign Public Library, Illinois, designed by Ross 
Barney Architects. (Ross Barney Architects) 

places a double height glazed spine through the building. 
This acts as a point of orientation whilst also providing 
a valuable environmental function. The library is largely 
naturally ventilated and lit by daylight (it has sun-tubes and 
ventilating cowls in the deep plan area), with solar gains 
controlled by external fins whose angle varies according to 
orientation. As a result of this and the wide use of natural 
materials, many of which were locally sourced, the build- 
ing received a LEED Silver award. 

According to Carol Ross Barney, the building’s 
Chicago-based architect, the library seeks to create a new 
identity for the small town public library. Its architectural 
character is rather more that of ‘a super-community centre 
than a traditional library’ (Ross Barney, 2007) with ‘an 
ambiance which appeals to the young but without alien- 
ating the older users’. The aim was to fashion a distinctive 
design based in part on new environmental sensibilities, 
and to create a ‘sense of place in what is largely a placeless 
urban context’. 

In order to stitch together the various elements into 
a coherent whole, the architect employed a small but 
consistent architectural palette. External walls are mainly 
of limestone and brick (this being the tradition in the town 
as well as on campus) with limestone used as a veneer 
internally where it is combined with bamboo laminated 
flooring. In the reading room and around the main staircase 
the bamboo is taken onto walls and ceilings. The seamless 

Champaign Public Library, Illinois 


Special features 

Ross Barney 

• Community-based library 


• Landmark in nondescript town 

• Received LEED silver award for 

environmental features 

• Emphasis upon natural materials 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 


Plan, Sandton Public Library, Johannesburg. (GAPP Architects) 

interior of well-lit planes of stone and bamboo veneer in- 
troduces into the building a welcome hint of glamour 
whilst signalling that this is a high-tech library for the 
twenty-first century. Built at a cost of $22 million in 2007, 
the library provides 121,000 square feet of accommodation 
for this expanding university. 

Sandton Public Library , Johannesburg, South Africa 

Sandton Public Library is part of a larger civic de- 
velopment in an affluent suburb of Johannesburg. Besides 
the library, there is an integral council chamber and office 
for local government administration. Adjoining the new 

Sandton Public Library, Johannesburg, South Africa 


Special features 


GAPP Architects 

Combined library and civic administration 

Integrated into retail and office area using public squares and colonnades. 

Has triangular form and central atrium. 

Moderates climate by thick brick construction and solar blinds. 

Not available 


The public library 

library and civic office, there is a sculpture garden and 
public square which help to stitch the new development 
into the existing pattern of retail and office uses. The 
building is remarkable for the close integration of public 
library and civic administration, creating a hybrid of uses 
which break down barriers between public services and 
political administration. On entering you can choose 
between sitting in on a council debate, borrowing a book or 
consulting a council official. 

The new library is a triangular building with a similarly 
shaped central atrium. It is entered via a colonnade set 
deeply into the building to provide a shaded route between 
various other parts of the civic centre. The colonnade 
widens in its centre to signal the library entrance. Viewed 
from the new public square, the changing rhythm of the 
brick Kahn-like facade with its giant triangular window 
above the library entrance expresses a clear civic purpose. 
In its general articulation and detailed treatment of facade, 
circulation and staircases, Sandton Public Library owes 
much to Exeter Academy, Library, USA, designed by 
Louis Kahn (Slessor, 1995, p. 53). Both libraries exist 
in hot climates where the external wall is critical 
to environmental control, but at Sandton the library re- 
volves around a central atrium which pulls light deep into 
the core of the five-storey building — creating in the process 
a valuable social space and a point of navigation in a 
complex building. 

The complexity of accommodation results in the library 
having to assert itself architecturally. Although the council 
chamber is boldly expressed as a semi-circular protrusion 
into the volume of the atrium, the spiral ramp (which rises 
from a reading area through the four floors of the library) 
unifies the interior experience. The ramp is used by both 
readers and staff, who employ its gentle incline to trolley 
books from floor to floor. The closely spaced horizontal 
rails of the spiralling ramp, bathed in South Africa’s eternal 
sunshine, create a light and elegant interior which contrasts 
with the solidity of the external facades (Slessor, 1995, 
p. 54). 

The use of an atrium allows the floor plates of the library 
to be fairly shallow. There are in effect three wings of 
library accommodation on each of the three library floors 
(the top floor is reference), wrapped around the atrium. 
Each floor is about 10 m deep with book stacks occupying 
the central zone. Reader spaces are at the outer edge 
(giving the advantage of light and views), with circulation 
around the inside. Structural columns and beams articulate 
the interior volumes forming bays for book stacks or 
reading areas. Although the library is fairly consistent 
throughout its four floors, its order is disrupted by the 
presence of various civic elements. On the ground floor 
there is a large auditorium (seating about 150) and facilities 
serving the council offices on the top floor. These add to the 
sense that the library is not a self-contained and separate 
building, but part of the community resources of Sandton. 

It is a character reinforced by the proximity of gardens, 
squares and retail facilities. 

This building sets an admirable example of library 
design for hot, dry climates. Mention has already been 
made of the contract between the thick perimeter walls and 
the open, transparent centre. This configuration is suc- 
cessful because of the compact plan and height of the 
building. Sun is never allowed to penetrate, but is 
deflected, screened and shaded in order to maximize day- 
light penetration without the disadvantage (glare and heat 
gain) of direct sunlight. Windows, for instance, are set deep 
into the thick brick facades and are further screened by 
projecting fabric blinds which are controlled by solar cells 
(Slessor, 1995, p. 53). Where library floors require a great 
deal of light, there are large glazed areas; on the upper 
floors, where staff offices are located, the windows on the 
other hand are small and round. Routes to the library are 
mostly within colonnaded walkways that follow the 
building perimeter. To provide further shade, the stair 
towers and lifts are taken to the outside where they screen 
the facade from low, angled sunlight. The high thermal 
capacity of the library — the result of concrete and brick 
construction — reduces temperature peaks and lessens the 
air-conditioning load. 

Entrance court to Oak Park Public Library, Chicago. 
(Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Top floor reading room at Oak Park Public Library, 
Chicago. (Brian Edwards) 

Oak Park Public Library , Chicago 

Oak Park Library serves the relatively wealthy suburb of 
Chicago made famous by the presence of many buildings 
by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built in 2003 to designs by Nagle, 
Hartray, Danker, Kagan, McKay, Penny the library houses 
a collection of nearly a million items, many of local 
interest. The library faces a city park and the busy Lake 
Street which forms the main commercial and civic boule- 
vard through Oak Park. It is only one block away from 
Wright’s Unity Temple and pays mild homage to the 
building, particularly in its entrance sequence. As with 
Wright’s building, the library is entered from a small paved 
square offset from the road, which takes visitors through 
a 90-degree turn into the library foyer. From here a long 
axis leads to the information desk with cross-axes leading 
to the main stair and lifts on one side and to meeting rooms 
and exhibition areas on the other. 

From the outside the library reads as a highly glazed 
building with faceted walls and an irregular skyline. At the 
entrance (which is marked by a portal with the name of the 
library carved into its stone walls) an outer colonnade 
provides a sheltered area overlooking the park. This 

gathering space addresses pedestrian and cycle movements 
from north and south, as well as those entering the library 
directly across the park. It is an area where books can be 
retrieved from backpacks and, on sunny days, where casual 
reading takes place and chance encounters occur. In this 
sense, the space acts as civilizing transition between pri- 
vate and public worlds. 

The library faces east across the park where mature trees 
provide a measure of solar protection in the summer whilst 
allowing high levels of daylight to penetrate deep into the 
building in the winter. The large upper floor windows on 
the second floor reading room-come-IT area enjoy good 
views as a consequence. The library is arranged with an 
exhibition area, children’s library, cafe and bookshop 
on the ground floor, the fiction collection and magazines 
on the first floor, and the reference library and reading 
room on the top floor. 

The plan at each floor level is simple: a central spine of 
computer and on-line facilities divides two areas of book 
stacks with reading tables, soft furniture and meeting rooms, 
a veteran’s study area and a classroom for developing com- 
puter skills around the perimeter. On each level there are staff 
areas to the rear forming a service zone with toilets and lifts. 
The plan is orthogonal except facing the park where the 
faceted perimeter wall introduces an organic response. 

Architecturally there are three features that give this 
public library its particular character, the first being that 
from outside the copper skin of the upper floors contrasts 
pleasantly with the sandstone base, providing a blend of 
earth colours which sit well in the park. The faceted facade 
and natural materials give the building a quality which is 
mildly reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s domestic ar- 
chitecture in Oak Park, thereby helping to connect the li- 
brary with the heritage of the district. 

The second feature concerns the lofty reading room on 
the upper floor. Here the columns recall trees with branches 
leading to folded timber-clad ceiling panels. Readers can 
sit at their desks overlooking the park whilst also enjoying 
an internal prospect of space, light and natural materials. 
The third element is the main staircase, which is not an 
understated utilitarian structure but an open tread glazed 

Oak Park Public Library, Chicago 

Architect Special features 

Nagle, Hartray, 
Danker, Kagan, 
McKay, Penny 

• Lofty top floor reading room 
overlooking park 

• External sheltered meeting area with 
cycle storage 

• Interesting stair with modern art glass 

• Special veterans library 


The public library 

stair which rises through the library bathed in coloured 
light and decorated with abstract art. 

In many ways Oak Park Public Library is a traditional 
book-based loan library. IT and the world of digital 
metadata are relatively understated in terms of space pro- 
vision. The emphasis is upon community use and particu- 
larly the needs of senior citizens and war veterans, with the 
library policy emphasizing the importance of respecting 
reading and quiet socializing. The library is zoned so that 
noise is permitted on the lower floors and gradually dis- 
couraged as one moves upwards. Mobile phones are not 
permitted in the reading areas and only texting is allowed 
elsewhere. Conversation is, however, encouraged with 
casual seating and recital areas on the ground floor. The 
spatial and functional demarcations at Oak Park Library 
reinforce the importance of reading through the building’s 
architectural response. This is not a hybrid library but one 
where certain traditions are upheld. In an age of rapid 
change in the ethos of public libraries, Oak Park reminds us 
of the importance of the library to cultural continuity in the 
American suburb. 

The new library at Espoo Public Library, Finland, out- 
side Helsinki, is the major part of a large cultural centre 
which also includes a concert hall and music conservatory. 
Designed by Helin and Co. Architects, the group of civic 
buildings is part of a larger commercial development in this 
fast expanding new town. The juxtaposition of library and 
concert hall makes the project of particular interest, as does 
its location within a large retail development. The marriage 
is achieved through the use of a common palette of mate- 
rials, a consistent architectural language, and the use of 
generous public promenade space which helps unify dis- 
parate functions. 

Finland, like most of Scandinavia, sees the library as an 
‘essential investment in the community, providing in- 
formation and entertainment. . . and offering solace through 
the frigid gloom of winter’ (Webb, 2004). The building has 
an exterior which appears architecturally more serious than 
many modern libraries. This is a building with little applied 
colour or complex geometries; instead there is a planar 
discipline of horizontal and vertical lines acted out in dif- 
ferent shades of grey. The sober exterior acts as a foil to the 
interior which has much applied colour in red, dark blue 
and white. The contrast alludes to the difference between 
the cold grey winter months and the gaiety of human life 
inside the typical Finnish dwelling. As a result, upon en- 
tering the library the visitor is faced by welcoming warmth 
and bright light flooding from above like a clearing in the 

The library forms the major element on a cruciform- 
shaped shopping arcade which terminates in a piazza. From 
the piazza the library, music school and concert hall are 
reached. As a result, the commercial and cultural worlds 
are combined in an environment which places the pedes- 
trian first. Users of the library can combine a visit to their 

supermarket with the return of library books, surfing on the 
Internet, and enjoying a coffee and sandwich. The fusion of 
retail and reading makes this development particularly 
noteworthy, especially when one adds the evening enter- 
tainment of chamber music performed perhaps by students 
at the conservatoire. The cultural investment was under- 
pinned by commerce yet the two worlds seem to exist quite 

The library entrance is a roof-lit triple height volume 
crossed by bridges and overlooked by galleries. Here the 
library reception is located with a childrens’ library and 
storytelling centre to one side and shops and a cafe on 
the other. The fiction and music library is straight ahead 
and extends on a cross-axis through the length of the 
building. The non-fiction and reference library is on the 
first floor with IT and youth facilities on the top floor. 
The axial planning of the different facilities and the 
logical disposition of elements ensures that the patterns of 
use are reinforced by the architectural hierarchies. Added 
to this, large glazed panels form many of the interior 

Mission Bay Public Library, San Francisco. Notice the 
small square and seats provided at the library en- 
trance. (Brian Edwards) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Mission Bay Public Library, San Francisco 


Special features 


• Part of large community development 

Prescott & 

incorporating social housing and 


health centre 

• Linked to riverside walkway 

• Special Mandarin language collection 

• Multi-agency funding 

subdivisions thereby aiding navigation through the large 

Mission Bay Public Library, San Francisco 

Mission Bay Public Library is the first new branch 
library built in the San Francisco Bay area for 40 years. 
Constructed in 2004, the library occupies a double height 
ground floor section of a larger community building 
which also contains a health centre, 140 units of housing 
for senior citizens and retail space. The library, situated 
at a prominent corner of the development, houses nearly 

Children’s Library at Mission Bay Public Library, 
San Francisco. (Brian Edwards) 

40,000 books for loan, an archive of local interest, 
a children’s library and a large IT area with rooms for 
learning support. 

Espoo Public Library, Finland 

Designed by Santos Prescott and Associates, the 7,500 
sq. ft library was built for $4 million. It forms part of 
a larger plan of urban regeneration containing a new tram 
station, pedestrian walkway along the sea front, new civic 
park, commercial office and retail space, and social hous- 
ing. The new library provides the social focus to comple- 
ment the commercial activities. The library was funded 
through a $106 million bond voted for by the citizens of 
San Francisco in 2000 to upgrade 17 of its branch libraries 
and construct three new ones in areas of multiple depri- 
vation. Mission Bay was the first constructed and trialled 
the idea of mixing health, social housing and library fa- 
cilities within a single building. 

The library is entered from a set back lobby beneath 
a canopy that supports the building’s name. The sheltered 
entrance is lined on either side with information boards 
displaying a variety of library, health, educational and 
welfare notices. Inside the entrance the library opens into 
a double height volume containing the main library with 
a central circular information desk. From here users are 
directed to the various facilities available, both book, IT 
and community-based. The latter includes a special col- 
lection devoted to Internet, language, personal health and 
reading support, plus information on the timetabling of 
classes. In addition, there is a teens area, children’s 
storytelling centre and music rooms. 

The ethos of this branch library resides in the commu- 
nity that it serves. Many of the books for loan are not in 
English and the library staff are bilingual in Spanish, 
Cantonese or Mandarin. The blending of library, health, 
drugs rehabilitation and social programmes within a single 
development suggests this small branch library is a useful 
model for similar community initiatives. By bringing in 
non-library activities Mission Bay Public Library was able 
to draw upon funding from a variety of channels, which is 
reflected in the size and quality of the resulting building. 

Espoo Public Library, Finland 


Special features 

Helin and Co. 

• Incorporates concert hall and music 


• Part of larger retail development 

• Triple height entrance hall 

• Top floor IT and youth library 


The public library 

Plan, Espoo Public Library, Finland. (Pekka Helin/AR) 

Sitting at the corner of the development and overlooking 
the waterfront, the new library provides a welcoming front 
to a larger parcel of urban regeneration. Outside seating 
and elegant stone paving allows the library to act as 
a meeting place and focus for local community action. In 
many ways, the interagency funding of the building helps 
bring about a shared responsibility for the needs of often 
disadvantaged people. The library is a small symbol of 
community empowerment and the importance of knowl- 
edge transfer to the local economy. 

Jaume Fuster Public Library, Barcelona 

The medium-sized Jaume Fuster Public Library exploits 
a range of secondary functions around the core of library 
provision to create an irregular prism of a building which 
contrasts with the geometry of its neighbours. Designed by 

Jaume Fuster Public Library, Barcelona 


Special features 

Josep Llinas 

• Organic shape inspired by 
Catalan traditions 

• Linked media centre, internet 
cafe and bar 

• External square created at 

library entrance 

Josep Llinas, the library is close to Gaudi’s Park Guell and 
seems to echo the Catalan traditions of spatial and material 
complexity. This is partly derived from the site with its organic 
shape, partly from the functional diversity of the brief, and 
partly from the architect’s striving for greater expression than 
that afforded by International Modernism (Gregory, 2006). 

The entrance is marked by an over-sailing, wave-like 
canopy which shades the building on its south and west 
sides. Its shaded edge invites people to the building from 
the adjacent square and provides protection for the 
library’s cafe. Once inside the building the visitor is faced 
with a number of choices — to the left a media centre, to the 
right a cafe bar, and in front the library information desk. 
There is no hint of barriers; instead there is fluid space with 
an elegant stair connecting the library’s four storeys. The 
spatial ambiguity is multiplied by carefully arranged roof 
lighting over the foyer. 

Like a piece of a medieval city, this library is a place to 
explore. There are unexpected routes leading to intriguing 
rooms and study spaces. The lines of walls, roofs and 
windows take on forms which break down formality 
producing a public library which is ‘eccentrically planned 
yet compositionally balanced’ (Gregory, 2006). The 
building appears to be responding to the social focus of 
the brief on the lower floors and to the disciplines of li- 
brary provision higher up. Similarly, there is a core of 
orthogonal planning where the main collections are 
housed and a periphery of study spaces, reading galleries 
and bridges around the edge. The arrangement allows the 
reader to escape into more intimate spaces for quiet study 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Ground (below) and first floor plan, Jaume 
Fuster Public Library, Barcelona. (Josep 

whilst returning to the order of the book stacks to re- 
plenish reading supplies. 

Ringwood Public Library, Melbourne, Australia 

This library is situated in a small unassuming suburb to the 
east of Melbourne. The town developed into a sizeable 
suburb in the 1950s, with the adjacent Maroondah High- 
way and the railway providing easy access to Melbourne. 

The town has a high proportion of one -parent families and 
illustrates the social changes which took place in Austra- 
lian society in the second half of the twentieth century. The 
construction of the Ringwood Library was partly funded 
by the development of an adjacent shopping mall by an 
enterprising local council. 

The library is located in the nearest shopping centre to 
the town’s railway station and close to the hub of activity 
associated with transport, car parking, buses and trains. 

Ringwood Library, Melbourne, Australia 


Special features 


Edmond and Corrigan 

Built-in shopping mall. 

Part-funded by revenue from retail development. 

Landmark and civic focus in drab suburb 

Design award winner. 



The public library 

Ringwood Public Library, Melbourne. (Biddy Fisher) 

The library had to be distinguishable from retail neigh- 
bours and act as a local landmark. The approach to the 
library entrance gives a feeling of a rise in ground level, 
lifting the building above the surroundings. One’s sight is 
drawn upwards to a high window of coloured glass, and the 
corrugated steel roofscape of sage green and grey. There is 
a covered walkway to the main shopping mall ensuring 
connectivity between library and retail activities. The 
facade of the building makes a bold statement among the 
shops in the plaza. It has a glazed brick and tiled wall of 
strong colour above which there is a multicoloured 
window. The use of colour and the varied roof heights are 
features that the architects Edmond and Corrigan have 
exploited to create a suburban landmark which contrasts 
with the surrounding town. 

The interior design is along more simple lines; a level, 
open-plan interior with an entrance lobby dominated by 
steel sliding (automatic) doors. The approach to the library 
brings instant contact with the business area of the circu- 
lation desk. Once past this, the building rises into double 
height and the impression is one of light, space and bold 

An oversized signpost visible from every point of the 
floor indicates the location of the collections and facilities. 

Human- scale shelving containing the books and media 
collections radiates out logically from the information 
desk. All are accessible and surrounded by easy chairs or 
desks according to purpose. The shelving provides spatial 
division between the discrete areas for children’s books, 
large print and computing facilities. The only public room 
separated by a fixed partition from the main collection is 
the family history section where valuable archives are kept. 

Staff work areas are located in offices around the pe- 
rimeter of the building. They are found principally adjacent 
to the loading bay where provision is made for storage as 
well as distribution. (A rest room with kitchen equipment is 
also provided.) Their position here helps with the surveil- 
lance of deliveries and avoids competition with the public 
elements of the library. 

The strong Australian sun is diffused by the coloured 
glass curtain of the main window. All other windows are 
low level and have large overhangs for solar protection. To 
the side, a small garden provides a more tranquil view and 
shade. Only one small clerestory window allows direct 
access for the sun, which is generally controlled carefully 
to provide a cool, glare-free working environment. 

The library collections and facilities are all in a single 
manageable area. They are arranged to enable browsing 
and study to take place with ease and interaction. 
However, the super-human scale of certain features, for 
example the height of the ceiling and the oversized 
signpost, ensure that the users lift their eyes from the 
books. Perhaps this creates an analogy with the purpose 
of the building: to contain and disseminate knowledge 
through reading whilst raising the level of understanding 
of the world at large. 

Eltham Public Library, Victoria, Australia 

The challenge for the architect Gregory Burgess, com- 
missioned to design a library at Eltham in Australia, was to 
design a building to meet the aspirations of an artistically 
aware and environmentally active community. The library 
project needed to provide a cultural focus in the widest 
sense. The site is of historical interest, with a scheduled 

Eltham Public Library, Victoria, Australia 


Special features 


Gregory Burgess 

Provides range of cultural facilities beyond traditional 

Irregular design as a metaphor for the fragmentation of 
the mind 

Artistic references to Australian life 

Uses local and recycled materials in construction. 



Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plan, Eltham Public Library, 
Victoria, Australia. (Biddy 

timber- trestle railway bridge in close proximity. The 
resulting building offers a sympathetic translation of the 
surrounding landscape without any obvious compromise in 
the choice of structure, materials or architectural features. 
The building contains the additional facilities of commu- 
nity meeting space, toy library, coffee shop and exhibition 
area — all supplementing the core provision of the library. 

The library, which opened in 1 994, serves a population of 
56,000. The book stock currently totals 59,000, with loans 
averaging 500,000 per annum since opening. This popu- 
larity is an indication of the success of the building and the 
nature of the local population. The building has become an 
accepted feature of local cultural life. Before entering the 
library, the user discovers reminders of Australian history: 
the approach to the building is via a veranda (a most Aus- 
tralian feature) with individually designed wooden seats 
provided under the overhanging roof. Moving into the li- 
brary through blue steel automatic doors, the user encoun- 
ters an entrance space which is used for public meetings or 
cultural events. A gentle incline around the perimeter serves 
a double purpose: it can be a seating area for author readings, 
or a ramp and steps for those who require it. 

The overall shape of the building is irregular. This 
heightens interest and creates surprise. The building is 
easily understood as a cultural symbol; it can be read as 
a metaphor for knowledge and understanding, as it contains 
many comers, unique spaces and hidden features. The 
central circulation desk acts as a hub from which the main 
shelving areas radiate to the perimeter of the building. 
Intimate reader spaces are placed around the floor in logical 

closeness to the collections. A lofty gallery area has been 
provided allowing scholars to look down upon the more 
general circulation of users. Overhead a wood-clad ceiling 
sweeps up and down in an inspiring series of vaults uni- 
fying the various spaces below. 

Low maintenance, natural materials have been chosen — 
clay brick, timber external cladding and recycled hard- 
wood veranda, door and window frames. Details such as 
the carpet design include references to local motifs (in this 
case the local eucalyptus tree). Fossil fuel consumption is 
minimized through the use of natural light and ventilation. 
Brick walls, verandas and the over-sailing roof optimize 
passive energy. Working environments are enhanced by 
the use of artistic and visual reference to the locality, with 
materials sourced locally wherever possible. 

Despite this sensitivity to nature, technological aspects 
of modern information provision sit comfortably within the 
library. The integration of PCs within reference areas is 
achieved simply, although modification to the lighting was 
necessary to prevent screen glare. Vertical blinds were also 
installed across some ceiling lights, contrasting with the 
microvenetian blinds used in the staff work areas. The 
changing nature of light according to the season is a posi- 
tive feature and gives the library depth as a working 

Dursley Public Library 

This small public library built in mral Gloucestershire is 
a model for others seeking an appealing building which 


The public library 

Dursley Public Library 

Discovery Centres, Hampshire 

Architect Special features 

Architect Special features 

Ridge • Small community library 

Hampshire • Large cultural and social spaces 

Multidisciplinary • Incorporates internet cafe and 

County • Colourful library interiors 

Practice Citizens Advice Bureau 

Council • Links to local schools and colleges 

• Island site gives landmark 

• Based upon imaginative adaptation 

status to library 

of existing buildings 

provides a range of services to the local community. Besides 
a traditional lending library there is an Internet cafe and Cit- 
izens Advice Bureau. The aim was to attract new users, es- 
pecially 12—18 year olds, by providing services aimed at 
younger people and to use architecture to signal their presence. 

Built at a cost of under a million pounds, the new library 
at Dursley is (as the brief stipulated) an ‘integrated in- 
formation, advice and cultural centre for local people’ 
( Building Design , 2006). Designed by the Ridge Multi- 
disciplinary practice, the library has largely transparent 
facades angled outwards on three sides to form an eye- 
catching civic building. The use of glass in slender frames 
and blue sheet aluminium gives the building a sleek 
appearance and opens up views of internal activities to the 
outside world. These consist of cafe and meeting rooms as 
well as the county library whose presence is marked by an 
inset entrance beneath a canopy. 

Although only two storeys high, the library is a small 
local landmark by day and a glowing beacon at night. The 
island site surrounded by roads gives the library great 
visibility and provides an opportunity to incorporate art 
into the design, which includes glass stepping stones and 
illuminated signage onto the facade. Since the building 
opened in 2006, visitor numbers have doubled over the 
1930s library it replaced. 

Discovery Centres, Hampshire 

The Discovery Centres being pioneered by Hampshire 
County Council in southern England are a new form of 
public library based on the idea of broadening the services 
provided to include exhibition and dance space and com- 
munity support such as Citizens Advice Bureaux and youth 
services. The aim is to widen the appeal of the library by 
creating an attractive and progressive image with state-of- 
the-art ICT facilities and an emphasis upon community use 
rather than purely library use. By expanding the services 
provided, the library has forged partnerships with cultural, 
leisure, educational and business organizations. Each 
Discovery Centre is tailored to the local demographics of 
the different communities served, with the brief developed 
following local consultation (Harper, 2006). 

Typical of the approach is the Gosport Discovery Centre 
which combines innovative design with the provision of 
flexible library and learning spaces in a neighbourhood 
noted for social deprivation. The building, with its wel- 
coming and spacious entrance, retail-type slimline bor- 
rowing desk, coloured art glass foyer and geostationary 
plasma screen, is far removed from the orthodox public 
library. In addition, there is a performance and recital area, 
a special zone for children and young people with coffee 
shop-type comfortable seating, and an extensive area for 
on-line learning with links to local schools and colleges. 
For those who want to engage in quiet study, there are 
silent zones around the periphery at upper levels where the 
bulk of the book collection is housed. 

The Gosport Discovery Centre, like that at Winchester 
which opened early in 2008 and those planned for 
Basingstoke and Andover, has forged a new model for the 
public library. With courses offered in the Centre aimed at 
promoting life-long learning and retraining, the use of the 
building by youth theatre and contemporary dance groups, 
and the employment of the foyer space for touring art ex- 
hibitions, the first impression is rather more that of 
a community hall than a library. 

However, there remains much that is library-like in the 
books, journals and newspapers that are available. These 
are positioned beyond the gallery and cafe-culture in- 
spired public front and placed in the more silent areas 
within the depth of the building. Here the book stacks are 
fairly low and informally arranged, thereby allowing the 
sense of space to flow. Tables, chairs and sofas in- 
terspersed with IT facilities form relaxing clusters for 
reading and study within the relatively lofty general li- 
brary areas. The round concrete columns, coffered ceiling 
and suspended lighting strips provide a robust, environ- 
mentally stable and cost-effective interior which suggests 
an ability to change its functional use without drastic 
structural modification. A reflective linoleum floor en- 
sures that light from the vertical floor to ceiling windows 
penetrates deep into the building. From the outside the 
windows give welcoming glimpses into the Discovery 
Centre. Their rhythmic spacing and coloured panels, 
coupled with the dramatic entrance, project an image 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Section through Ebbisham Centre, Epsom, Surrey. The library is on the first floor (RMJM/AT) 

within the town centre of an innovative and welcoming 
public building. 

At the £7 million Winchester Discovery Centre the 
character is rather more traditional. Here a listed building 
(formerly the Corn Exchange) has been converted to con- 
tain a mixture of library and community facilities such as 
performance and learning spaces. The library is the hub of 
the ‘people’s network’ of free IT provision, helping to 
erode the exclusivity of the building. The Discover Centres 
mark a distinct cultural change in nature of the public 
library. The character and design of the resulting buildings 
is not unlike that pioneered by the idea stores movement 
with the emphasis upon colour, openness and social 

Ebbisham Centre Library, Epsom, Surrey 

The integration of the public library with other types of 
social provision is well illustrated by that at the Ebbisham 
Centre in Epsom. Here the redevelopment of a large part of 
the town centre provided the opportunity to realize an 
ambitious fusion of public buildings and related commer- 
cial development. The library is the major element in 
a composition of social and cultural facilities which in- 
cludes a leisure centre, doctor’s surgery, cafe and resi- 
dential development. Necessarily, the facilities are grouped 
around a new square which opens off the high street in 

The square leads in turn to a concourse which links 
together the various civic facilities. Visible from the high 

street, the square and concourse signal the presence of the 
library to shoppers whilst also, according to the architects 
RMJM, ‘organising and clarifying the scheme as a whole’ 
{Architecture Today , 2002). Funded in part as a millennium 
project (using UK lottery grants and Capital Challenge 
Funding) the development was a partnership between 
Surrey County Council and a private developer (Trevor 
Osborne Property Group). The integration of public and 
private elements was necessary to ensure the scheme was 
economically and socially viable. 

The 60 m long concourse is the main attraction to vis- 
itors. Being 8 m high, nearly fully glazed and south facing, 
the space has a grandeur befitting civic architecture. The 
concourse forms a promenade which leads to the three 
main public elements: the library, leisure centre (called 
a ‘lifestyle centre’) and doctors’ surgery. It also provides 
access to retail outlets, bars, restaurants and a health club 
which are stitched into the development at various levels. 
The library is mainly at first floor level and has its own 
entrance foyer, lifts and stairs sandwiched between retail 
units. In effect, the shops provide the lure to bring young 
people into the library. 

Set behind a glazed double height wall, the library is 
highly visible in spite of its elevated position. The glazed 
concourse wall provides natural ventilation and cooling via 
a 700 mm cavity, and sheds light onto the fagade of the 
library beyond. With its own roof light above the entrance, 
the library provides an inviting well-lit space for readers. 
This small public library is on one level and has a soft 

Key design characteristics of libraries 

Visible, recognizable and legible as a type 

Adaptable to new information technology and physically 

Comfortable and disabled-friendly 
Inviting, safe and secure for users 
Protection and security of the collection 

Ebbisham Public Library, Epsom, Surrey 

Architect Special features 

RMJM • First floor library with shops below and 

health centre above 

• Blend of lottery, local authority and 
private funding 

• Double height glazed entry promenade 


The public library 

Key qualities for the design of public libraries 


• ensure safe, secure and legible routes 

• provide memorable spaces to aid navigation 

• use visual continuity to stitch library into cultural realm 


• place major collection in major spaces 

• use collections to give mental map of building 

• integrate paper and IT provision 

• provide study rooms for special collections 

Reader areas 

• place reader desks in daylight 

• ensure soft seating magazine areas are near entrance 

• locate reader areas near cafes 

Design quality 

• ensure library looks like a cultural institution 

• make building inviting and stimulating irrespective of the collection 

• provide meeting spaces overlooking the city 

Control desk and circulation 

• ensure the information point is visible to all 

• provide circulation routes which celebrate movement 

• provide visual continuity by avoiding ‘walls’ 

• avoid fortress impression 

seating magazine area to one side of the entrance and 
computer terminals to the other with the book stacks and 
control point beyond. What is worthy of note in this 
example is the way a range of public facilities has been 
provided, integrated with private leisure and retail de- 
velopments. The integration has been achieved primarily 
by the careful attention given to urban design in both plan 
and section. 


American Libraries Association Journal (2007). November. 
ASLIB (1995). Review of the Public Library Service in England 
and Wales. Association for Information Management. 
Architecture Today (2002). Issue 124, pp. 36-40. 

Architecture Today (2005). Issue 160, June, pp. 89—90. 

Atlantic Monthly (1992). August, pp. 84—87. 

Blackman, D. (2003). More library revamps by the Idea Store 
team. Building Design, 25 April, p. 7. 

Blundell Jones, P. (1994). Brought to book. Architectural Review, 
42. February. 

Boddy, T. (2006). Les Chambres de Bois. Architectural Review, 
June, pp. 73—74. 

Brawne, M. (1997). Library Builders, Academy, p. 179. 

Building Design (2006). 13 April, p. 4. 

Evans, B. (2004). Ideas in Store. The Architects Journal, 12 
August, p. 24. 

Evans, B. (2005). Read all about it. The Architects Journal, 3 
May, p. 24. 

Glancey, J. (2000). Guardian, 4 March, p. 19. 

Gregory, B. (2006). Between the lines. Architectural Review, 
65—70. June. 

Harper, P. (2006). Library design has arrived. Update, July/ 
August, Vol. 5, p. 37. 

Kaplan, S. et al. (1993). The museum as a restorative 
environment. Environmental Behaviour, 25, pp. 725—742. 

Lamprecht, B. (2004). The nice and the good. Architectural 
Review : 52—54. August. 

LeCuyer, A. (2006). Midwest modesty. Architectural Review : 
56-62. June. 

Library and Information Update (2006) Vol. 5, November, p. 4. 

Melvin, J. (2000). Peckham Rise. Architects Journal, 30 March, p. 22. 

Rattenbury, K. (2004). Toying with Uncle Sam. Building Design 
6 August, p.ll. 

Ross Barney, C. (2007). Interview conducted with author, 

17 December. 

Slessor, C. (1995). Suburban bibliophile. Architectural Review, 
53. March. 

Spring, M. (2000). Temple of Learning. Building, December, pp. 37-43. 

Sudjic, D. (2000). Keep your Eyes on the Prize. Observer Review, 
20 October, p. 5. 

Taylor, V. (1999). Postcard from the President. Library 
Association Rec., 101, p. 632. 

Webb, M. (2004). Cultural hub. Architectural Review, August, 
p. 46. 


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The university library 

Historically, universities have helped define and give form 
to the library as a distinctive building type. The demands of 
education, particularly in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
century, led to the construction of a new generation of 
efficiently planned, rationally organized libraries. It was 
during this time that the library matured into a recognizable 
building within the taxonomy of types. The library ceased 
to be a wing of a bigger building and became a structure 
with meanings all of its own. Higher education demanded 
of libraries the same rigour and intellectual discipline that 
was displayed in the laboratories and lecture theatres of 
Europe’s expanding universities. Well before the public 
library had emerged on the scene (mostly from 1850 on- 
wards), the university library had evolved with its own 
distinctive shape and form of spatial organization. 

Central to this formal construct was the lack of dis- 
tinction between reading and storage. Although the extent 
of books and journals required of university scholars was 
large, only a small portion was not on permanent display. 
Bookcases held the bulk of the material with only the rarest 
study collection held in secure storage. 

By 1750, the academic library was less a visible trophy 
of scholarship and rather more a practical resource for all. 
To signify this change, the university library was built all 
on its own and often placed centrally on campus as 
a symbol of independent intellectual inquiry. The library at 
this time ceased to be what today would be called a faculty 
library and became instead a true university library. The 
library held all of the printed material required by un- 
dergraduates, arranged according to a standard system of 
classification. In fact, the introduction after 1780 of 
a standard classification system (increasingly the almost 
Darwinian Dewey Decimal System) helped give shape to 
the library building itself. In this sense, those who evolved 
this system had accidentally helped design the modem 
university library. 

Today the university library holds a central position in 
the innovation of cataloguing and retrieval systems, and in 
the design of library buildings themselves. The challenge 
of computer-based learning and the infiltration of IT into 
all fields of education have revolutionized the university 
library. Just as higher education led advances in the design 

of libraries in the eighteenth century, the university has 
been at the forefront of technological innovation over the 
past decade. The modern university library has expanded to 
become a computing centre where both traditional and 
electronic data can be accessed almost simultaneously. 
Books and computer terminals stand side-by-side, with 
students flitting between paper and digital information. 
What was once a simple ordered world of books and 
journals has become a complex and plural place. Many 
new university libraries are known as learning resource 
centres and, where the old title of university library is 
retained, there are floors of computer terminals, media 
centres and sometimes cafes. If you want to see the shape 
of the municipal library of the future, then visit your 
nearest university library. 

A comparison of plans of university libraries from the 
1960s with those of today is revealing. Space has become 
more complex and multifunctional. Areas in the past that 
were corridors, reading areas or stack rooms have become 
multi-purpose, with the former distinctions of private and 
public, quiet and noisy, now blurred. The change has been 
necessary to accommodate new forms of data and new 
philosophies of learning triggered by the computing revo- 
lution. The university library is typically an extension of 
the classroom with seminars and joint student projects 
often undertaken within its walls. The ready access to 
electronic information in the modern university library 
makes it a teaching resource of unprecedented potential. A 
comparison of the plan of Thames Valley University li- 
brary (1996), designed by Richard Rogers, with that of the 
University of East Anglia library (1964), designed by 
Denis Lasdun, shows the magnitude of changes brought 
about by this revolution. Whereas Lasdun’s library is 
a collection of reading rooms and stack floors, the library 
designed by Rogers is fluid space containing dynamic 
interacting functions. 

The university library is usually the most prominent 
building on the campus. Its visual dominance is justified by 
the crucial role played by books, journals and IT systems in 
learning and research. Since the library is a magnet for all 
members of the academic community, it requires a central 
position, prominent form and sheltered, well-lit approaches. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

18th Century 

The changing plan of the 
university library. (Brian 

19th Century 



! Reading 

j Room 



1 l l l 


20th Century 











21st Century 














As library collections are rarely static and have a tendency to 
grow in an unexpected fashion, there also needs to be space 
for outward expansion. How growth is accommodated varies 
with circumstance but three strategies are often followed: 

1 . physical outward expansion, either laterally or 

2. the separation of study from book storage with the latter 
provided in another more distant building 

3. the shift from traditional to electronic information 

These conditions are common of all libraries, but the uni- 
versity library experiences the pressure for change more 
acutely than elsewhere. This is particularly true in periods 
of rapid growth in higher education (as in the 1980s in the 

USA and the 1990s in the UK) and during times of change 
in information technology (e.g. the mass availability of the 
printed book after 1650, the developmental of the scientific 
journal around 1840, and the revolution in computer-based 
information which has gathered pace since the 1980s). As 
a general rule, technology rather than management is the 
main motor of change in the design of library buildings. 

University libraries tend to be long-lived buildings. Their 
collections may grow but the architecture fabric tends to 
remain, though frequently under stress of various kinds. 
Many university libraries contain book, journal and special 
collections of national importance. The library at Harvard 
holds 10 million volumes, Berkeley 7 million, Yale 6 mil- 
lion and Oxford and Cambridge each about 5 million. In- 
evitably with such a scale of provision, most university 
libraries of any size separate reading areas from storage. The 


The university library 

argument is simple: reading rooms and study space can 
remain fairly constant whilst storage areas (usually some 
distance away) can grow to accommodate the expansion in 
the written word. As for digital information, this requires 
only storage for the computer network servers and system 
equipment, since the net is all-pervasive. 

Computing has not only led to the death of distance but 
the extinction of storage in the traditional sense. The space 
required for CD-ROMs, discs, etc. can readily be accom- 
modated within the library. The computer terminals 
themselves tend to be distributed throughout the building 
to facilitate access to the catalogue, and to be in dedicated 
areas given over exclusively to electronic browsing. The 
latter areas are often attached to large rooms of PCs where 
students can analyse the data collected and prepare their 
research reports or essays. Under such pressure, the uni- 
versity library resembles a hybrid of old library types and 
modem high-tech offices — a kind of trading area of new 
knowledge where, as the Vice Chancellor of Sunderland 
University put it in 1995, the library reflects the ethos of ‘a 
university without walls, a gateway to global knowledge’ 
(Wright, 1997, p. 25). 

For many students, the large reading room of the tradi- 
tional university library is where much study tends to take 
place. The eighteenth and nineteenth century academic li- 
brary celebrated the reading room by setting it within a gen- 
erous domed space. Typical is the work of the architects 
McKim, Mead and White, who placed grand circular reading 
rooms at the heart of their libraries for New York and Co- 
lumbia Universities. These were the days when the book was 
dominant; today a similar gesture of spatial significance is 
often given to the computer suite. In fact, in some modem 
university libraries, known increasingly as Teaming resource 
centres’, the computer screen is more in evidence than the 
book. In these libraries, walls are not lined with bookcases but 
rows of computers placed neatly on tables. Since the envi- 
ronmental needs of computer space are quite different from 
that of book-based reading, the approach to lighting design 
and ventilation varies according to the type of library. As 
computers release heat and require glare-free lighting, the 
shape of the technology-rich library reflects the environ- 
mental engineering of the space. The grand domed reading 
room of the past is quite unsuitable for computer-based li- 
brary use just as the modem electronic library is ill-fitted for 
book and journal use. The media of the library determines not 
just the use of space but its basic architectural form. 

Centrality of the university library 

The university library has always been at the geographical 
and intellectual centre of the campus. However, this role, 
which was formerly based upon the importance of the book 
and j ournal collections, has been reinforced by the revolution 
in IT provision, interactive learning and multimedia. Now 
the library is the primary focus of campus connectivity 

through both its provision of technology-enhanced educa- 
tional provision and the use of wireless networking (Marmot, 
2005, p. 50). This has enhanced the importance of the central 
university library at the expense of faculty libraries and in 
turn has encouraged the library to innovate in its provision of 
support for learning and research. At the same time, the 
university library has assumed the role of flagship for their 
institutions with the emphasis on innovative architectural 
design, high quality constmction and fittings, generous use of 
space, accessibility and transparency (Wilson, 2008). The 
centrality exists on three levels: as an intellectual centre, as 
the focus for wire and wireless information connections, and 
as an architectural symbol. Disraeli’ s dictum that universities 
are places of Tight, liberty and learning’ is nowhere more 
evident than in the design of the university library. 

The sense that the college or university library is the major 
vehicle for campus connectivity in both paper-based learning 
support and IT provision has had two main effects. First, there 
is growing pressure to ensure that library facilities are avail- 
able 24 hours a day and every day of the week. This in turn has 
encouraged the constmction of social spaces and cafes in the 
library, which through WiFi have become informal learning 
zones often away from the gaze of library staff. Here students 
can network not only with peers but teachers and professors 
who may be using the cafes to take refreshment. Studies have 
suggested that these informal social spaces have become an 
important arena to support more structured teaching 
(Marmot, 2005, pp. 21—25). To maximize these benefits it is 
necessary to create congenial, stimulating and inspirational 
public areas in libraries (Wilson, 2008, p. 36). 

The second main consequence is that more students are 
using the library than ever before and this is leading to 
pressure to expand provision to meet student demand. Since 
many are part-time or international students, there are often 
training spaces whereby students can be inducted into the 
technologies available. Coupled with this — the demands for 
group and project working whereby a range of sources 
(paper and digital) is employed and spoken word commu- 
nication essential — there is growing pressure to provide 
study rooms for such activities. Formerly these were in the 
schools and departments elsewhere on campus, but by 
centralizing the information resources (often using the term 
Learning Resource Centre) the library has become the focus 
of much teaching. The growing importance of libraries has 
reinforced their role not just in the provision and inter- 
connectivity of information services but critically in pro- 
viding space where that information can be employed. After 
all, in the digital age information can be accessed almost 
anywhere so the library needs to provide attractive and in- 
spirational areas which encourage knowledge exchange. 

Partly as a consequence of these changes, the quality of the 
library becomes an important component of measures 
employed to assess the standing of different universities. For 
instance, the Times Good University Guide uses library pro- 
vision and annual library spending to score the relative merits 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 


p ft 


T : 




1 i.fl 


Sections through the central library at the Free University of Berlin designed by Foster and Partners. (Foster and 

of the hundred or so UK universities. Similarly, the Higher 
Education Funding Council in its periodic audits makes an 
assessment of a university’s library. Here the judgement is 
not just in the size and comprehensiveness of the collection 
but how well it is used in the pursuit of teaching, learning and 

research. To use a collection well invariably involves rede- 
signing all or part of the building in order to accommodate the 
updating of library facilities for the needs of the twenty-first 
century. Hence, annual investment is a measure employed by 
those who audit library quality. 

Key qualities for the design of university libraries 



Reader areas 

Control desk 

• Ensure easy access for all 

• Provide high level of security around entrances 

• Provide clear way-finding through building 

• Ensure legibility of information points and collections 

• Store collections of books in logical relationships to 
academic subjects taught 

• Place book and IT areas away from sunlight 

• Provide for expansion of material - paper, research 
and digital 

• Ensure integration of paper and digital media 

• Place study spaces in natural light 

• Ensure sufficient study space to use a variety of media 

• Create quiet study spaces in corners 

• Form research study areas close to special collections 

• Ensure the circulating and information desk is readily 
visible at entrance and on each floor 

• Scatter staffrooms around library to ensure student 

• Use electronic controls for stock security, thereby 
liberating staff to be subject navigators 


The university library 

As academic libraries assume greater importance, their 
architectural design has enjoyed a renaissance over the past 
few years. Many recent university libraries have been in- 
novative and award-winning buildings, such as Lord 
Foster’s central library at the Free University of Berlin. 
Nicknamed the ‘brain’ because of its organic shape and 
central cortex of information services (Wilson, 2008, p. 
36), the new building has centralized library provision on 
this campus of 35,000 students. Another example of the 
library as landmark is Herzog and de Meuron’s academic 
library at the Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus 
in former East Germany. Built as a futurist castle encased 
in etched glass that reflects the sky by day and glows after 
dark, the library, which is both media centre and traditional 
book repository, signals the academic values of the twenty- 
first century (Wilson, 2008, p. 37). This building, which 
won the ‘Library of the Year’ award in 2006, acts as 
a gateway to knowledge and as a container of memories. 

Changing pattern of teaching and the library 

Academic libraries, both university and school, are rapidly 
adapting to new forms of teaching and learning. The 
growing use of group projects means that students study as 
a team. This inevitably entails discussion and leads to the 

The changing section of the university library. (Brian 

provision of group study areas in libraries away from those 
areas for quiet study. Group work, especially around pro- 
jects, involves interaction between members, access to IT 
and physical space which encourages team working. Large 
tables are needed surrounded by chairs and, ideally, the 
furniture layout should be flexible enough to allow for 
a variety of configurations. Rarely are projects undertaken 
without academic guidance, which leads to the erosion of 
boundaries between teaching and library space. Rarely too 
are projects tackled without the use of both traditional and 
electronic sources — hence the need to integrate book, 
journal and IT provision within the place of study. 

Projects are a growing aspect of student-centred learning. 
It is argued that projects encourage intellectual cross- fertil- 
ization, are a deeper source of learning than traditional lec- 
tures, and mimic more closely the world of work. Project- 
based teaching has a profound impact upon the use of the li- 
brary, especially when accompanied by a rise in student 
numbers. Where, at one time, libraries were quiet and rela- 
tively under-occupied buildings with individual readers 
surrounded by books in personal carrels, the reality today is 
one of bustle, social interaction and knowledge exchange. 
The library caters for these changes in a variety of ways — in 
the use and zoning of space, in the provision of silent and 
discussion areas, in the choice of furniture layout, and in the 
integration of IT and book facilities around the concept of PC 
study clusters. As students are now required to type most of 
their projects, there is great pressure upon word-processing 
facilities. This further breaks down the barrier between library 
and computer buildings, leading inevitably to the provision of 
learning resource centres where book, IT and especially 
multimedia packages can be integrated into a single space. 

There are consequences too for library staff who will 
increasingly be involved in the support of learning. Old 
demarcations between academic staff and librarians 
become irrelevant as new forms of teaching and learning 
around IT packages take hold. This changes staff roles and 
the use or location of staff offices. To be most effective in 
supporting student-centred learning, library staff need to be 
accessible close to the material held. They become stall- 
holders in a market place of subject zones, each with their 
own clusters of PCs and learning packages. The book 
stacks, if they exist at all, simply define the territories 
within which student projects take place. 

The changing library: the learning resource 

If universities have led the recent revolution in library 
design (to the benefit of public and national libraries alike), 
the impetus for change, in the UK at least, was the Follett 
Report published in 1993 (Joint Funding Council, 1993). 
The Follett Inquiry was set up by the bodies which fund 
higher education in the UK in response to perceived stress 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

upon academic library space, equipment and collections. 
The timing was critical — just as IT was biting into budgets 
and disrupting buildings — and the conclusions drawn by 
the committee of inquiry rightly put technology high on the 
agenda of reform. In his report, Sir Brian Follett made five 
recommendations, which had profound implications for the 
design of academic libraries: 

• information storage and access should take greater 
account of new digital technology 

• the emphasis upon the ‘collection’ should give way to 
facilitating ‘access’ 

• IT should not be separated but integrated with traditional 
library sources 

• research and teaching material should be more closely 
integrated and organized around the emerging reality 
of the electronic library 

• extra funding should be available for universities to 
develop new IT libraries and modify existing academic 

The Follett Report, which was accepted by the UK govern- 
ment with the allocation of additional resources, led to much 
innovation in library design in the 1990s. When one exam- 
ines some of the new academic libraries created under the 
influence of the Follet Report (e.g. at Thames Valley Uni- 
versity), it is evident that space within the library has become 
more fluid and, as a consequence, flexible. The integration of 
IT and traditional library material (books, journals) within 
the same general volume has led to what have been described 
as libraries without walls — places of information exchange 
across storage systems (Wright, 1997, p. 26). 

The Follett Report anticipated the impact new technol- 
ogy was to have upon the library both as a building and in 
terms of its contribution to teaching and learning. In 
directing the bulk of its recommendations to IT, Follett 
effectively championed change within libraries, not just 
academic ones. The emergence of Teaming resource cen- 
tres’ is one manifestation, another is the rebalancing of 
‘library physical space with electronic service innovation, 
underpinned by changing technological infrastmcture ca- 
pabilities and new systems developments’ (Brindley, 1995, 
p. 3). Although a few people have subsequently questioned 
the concept of a library as a physical building, what Follett 
effectively championed was a new type of space to serve 
new forms of library technology. 

The new library has to accommodate flexibility but 
without excessive initial cost. Recent library design has 
moved away from characterless interiors towards more 
interesting expressive space. It is increasingly realized that 
short-term modification can be less costly than building in 
infinite flexibility at the outset. Certainly, the quality of the 
architectural interior suffers from an inexhaustible quest 
for adaptability. The open flexible library has also to bal- 
ance the need for ventilation with acoustic separation, and 

workspace privacy with trading floor activity. In addition, 
in an age of wireless networks, the dominance of cable-led 
determinism should not fashion building layouts. 

All libraries face the same general problems, not just ac- 
ademic ones. Ultimately the library is a building which, like 
all others, is judged by quality of experience, not perfor- 
mance against abstract notions of flexibility or technological 
innovation. Space, light and ambience are enduring factors 
which can exist across changes in library technology. It is 
easy to be seduced by IT, but experience suggests that the 
promised flexibility sometimes fails to be delivered. If the 
academic library provides a vision for the future, recent 
learning resource centres offer many lessons in the difficult 
choices faced by library managers and their designers. 

What is evident from learning resource centres is the 
fact that, though they are shrinking in size as they seek to 
accommodate less stock, they are becoming more expen- 
sive. The IT provision, wiring systems and environmental 
standards required of computer-based libraries results in 
them costing 20—25% more per square metre than tradi- 
tional book-based libraries. So, although learning resource 
centres are slimmer and leaner than old-fashioned libraries, 
they are more expensive to build. However, once built they 
can often accommodate a variety of uses beyond library 
ones. This inbuilt adaptability offers institutions great ad- 
vantage in an age of educational change. 

The changing nature of Learning Resource Centres 

Since their introduction in the 1980s learning resource 
centres (LRC) have begun to take on new characteristics. 
Formerly, they were primarily computer-orientated librar- 
ies, essentially open-plan but with limited enclosed or 
semi-enclosed study areas. In such buildings books and 
journals were rarely employed since they were held in 
adjacent libraries, so students worked either digitally or 
used paper sources. Studies suggested that having two 
separate buildings discouraged integration of study mate- 
rial in spite of their physical proximity. This was partly 
because the library and LRC had their own staffing cul- 
tures, study methodologies, facilities, opening hours, 
policy on noise, etc. Over the past decade there have been 
attempts to combine the book and computer-orientated- 
cum-IT library within not just a single building, but within 
a single culture of information and study provision. 

The LRC highlights a characteristic of the modem li- 
brary. The physical collection of books requires a building 
whilst information services such as the Internet require 
only a laptop: one is space specific, the other exists in 
universal space. If new information technologies are busy 
dissolving the solidity of knowledge and making fluid its 
boundaries, the library still has to compete in architectural 
terms in order to retain its clientele. Although dedicated IT 


The university library 

areas are needed in such buildings, scholars also require 
ready access to the book collection, theses and reference 
library. Digital and paper sources can be integrated at the 
study desk or nearby seminar room as long as media in- 
teraction is an objective at the outset of design. Also, since 
flexibility of space provision is needed and future trends in 
both technology and modes of pedagogy are hard to pre- 
dict, there are certain principles to follow: 

• use raised floors throughout, except in the book-stack 

• provide proximity of all media, especially digital and 
paper-based sources 

• provide a perception of other study areas and sources of 
information by ensuring visual connection 

• use folding or sliding doors to create a spacious interior 

• use lightweight walls on top of raised floors for 

• zone the space for acoustic protection 

• provide small teaching rooms in LRCs, some under the 
control of students for undertaking project work 

• consider using mobile compact storage of rarely used 
book sources. 

Informal learning spaces in the academic 

Recent research has highlighted the need to provide casual 
comers where students can develop their own ideas within 
libraries. The idea of peer-to-peer and social learning 
spaces has assumed greater importance as higher education 
has moved from a teaching to a learning and research 
culture. The new environments of learning affect the 
campus as a whole but the university library is not immune 
to these wider changes in educational practice. Traditional 
teacher models of learning are giving way to study which is 
self-motivated, informed by a diversity of knowledge or 
theoretical sources, and underpinned by respect for re- 
search as the primary means of cultivating new knowledge. 
The role of the library is to provide a range of study en- 
vironments to suit a diversity of learning styles and student 

The four principles of effective learning are: 

• learning by private study 

• learning by reflection and testing 

• learning by application 

• learning through group work and conversation. 

All four can be supported through the facilities provided in 
academic libraries if their role is seen as cultivating an ability 
to think critically rather than simply gain factual knowledge. 
Facts and knowledge are needed but it is the use made of that 
knowledge which characterizes an effective learner. Here 
architectural design has a role to play in creating the internal 

Informal study space at the Sydney Jones Library, 
University of Liverpool. (Brian Edwards) 

spaces which promote connectivity, intellectual exploration 
and deep (rather than shallow) thought. Hence, the trend is 
towards libraries without walls, spaces which can be used for 
informal working and networking, and architectural volumes 
which display the interdependence of knowledge rather than 
subject specificness. 

The ubiquitous world of computing and all the associ- 
ated benefits of e-learning allow facilities on and off 
campus to be exploited in both formal and more casual 
ways. From the students’ hall of residence or home to the 
university or faculty library there are countless opportu- 
nities to cultivate informal opportunities for academic 
pursuit. The old distinction between lecture theatre, library, 
laboratory and seminar room, with their formal overtones 
of traditional modes of teaching, is being rapidly overtaken 
by what is called ‘blended learning’. Here the emphasis is 
upon social learning spaces, often enhanced by IT (espe- 
cially wireless networks), which are provided around the 
edges of formal teaching spaces such as lecture theatres 
and libraries. The ability of a college or university to adapt 
to changing student numbers, age profiles and abilities 
depends increasingly upon the development of new library 
environments geared to changing pedagogic styles 
(Wilson, 2008, p. 39). 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

New libraries, however, are not always essential or af- 
fordable in order to meet the learning environments re- 
quired of the twenty-first century. It is often possible to 
adapt older university libraries to accommodate new ped- 
agogic practices. The key here is intelligent refurbishment 
where the emphasis is upon maximizing natural light, 
acoustic separation and ventilation (qualities often over- 
looked in earlier academic libraries), creating spaces for 
social learning, providing informal as well as more struc- 
tured IT areas, and (where the climate permits) forming 
external areas for the exchange of ideas and networking. 
Such adaptation often includes a large measure of physical 
extension and here (as at De Montfort University library 
refurbished and extended by Eva Jirinca in 2001) the 
design orientates students towards informal learning clus- 
ters placed on the bridges between the paper library and the 
electronic one. These are often bathed in natural light and 
naturally ventilated, thereby creating rooms (often under 
the students’ control) which are stimulating to use and have 
a good social ambiance. 

The challenge is not just to meet the changing world of 
university and college libraries, but to anticipate future 
trends in the designs we produce today. Certain principles 
are evident such as: 

• growth in research-based learning 

• emphasis upon problem-orientated study rather than 
theoretical pursuits 

• using, assessing, applying and synthesizing information 
from a diversity of sources 

• providing space which allows people to work together 

• designing university libraries as meeting places both 
socially and academically. 

Libraries are part of the university knowledge web that 
includes the production (through research), distribution 

The Koener Library at the University of British Co- 
lumbia signals the building’s pedagogic importance. 
(Brian Edwards) 

(through teaching), acquisition (through personal study) 
and application (through projects and theses) of knowl- 
edge. In this chain, the library as a pattern of architectural 
volumes and functions performs an ever-changing role in 
knowledge transfer (Arets, 2005). Hence, flexibility is 
important and so is the quality of the library as a building. 

Planning for growth 

Mention has already been made of the main strategies for 
accommodating growth in the library. The stresses im- 
posed by expansion in the library stock, or change in li- 
brary technology, have impacts beyond physical 
enlargement. These stresses are felt within the library itself 
— the use and management of space, the integration of 
traditional and electronic information systems, in staff re- 
sources, furniture layout, access strategies, security, etc. 
Managing growth so that the library maintains coherence 
as a working entity is a subtle art. 

The library should anticipate growth at the outset by 
placing flexibility and expansion strategies in the design 
brief. Libraries that are overly monumental do not readily 
accommodate change. However, libraries which place 
almost total flexibility high on the agenda often lack 
character as a building. ‘Libraryness’ is a quality all uni- 
versity libraries should contain. Incremental growth in 
study material is inevitable in the academic library. Books 
and journals continue to expand and at roughly predictable 
rates (3—5% increase in published stock per year). How- 
ever, expansion is harder to predict in the area of electronic 
library resources. Although digital data is undergoing rapid 
growth, it demands less space than other information sys- 
tems. Here it is not computing space which is the problem, 
but people space and the expectations placed upon the 
quality of that space (environmental standards, high-tech 

Various strategies are available to harness growth for 
both library efficiency and architectural advantage. There 
are three common approaches: 

1 . To plan for growth by providing flexible, loose-fit space 
with obvious areas for expansion at the periphery. Here 
all areas are well serviced in terms of air-conditioning, 
cabling and access to lifts, hoists, ducts and stairs. Such 
libraries are systems based upon repeating modules of 
accommodation and the integration of space for books, 
journals, reading and electronic access. Libraries built 
to this approach are airy, open, transparent and often 
energy efficient. 

2. To plan for growth by separating the library into 
‘served’ and ‘servant’ zones. Here there is a distinction 
between the elements which support space and the 
space itself. The served spaces are the library and 
reading rooms, which are large and fairly fixed 


The university library 

Minor Grid 


rant spaces) 

— ► m 


Major Grid 


ved spaces) 



— ► Z 



, ^ z 

Plan of major and minor 
grids in a typical univer- 
sity library. (Brian 

elements. The servant spaces are the areas of circula- 
tion, ducting of services, staff offices and storage areas. 
These, essentially the supporting areas, are also the 
parts which are put under the greatest stress by library 
growth. The separation of the two types of space (in 
both plan and section) provides a dissimilar dimen- 
sional grid of accommodation through the building. The 
stress of growth or change in stock can be accommo- 
dated by such a measure since it allows for different 
types of space and servicing to occur on a rational basis. 

3. To plan for growth by separating the main building el- 
ements from the lesser ones. Here structural columns, 
floors and roofs are distinguished from enclosing walls, 
partitions, lighting finishes and furniture. This allows 
the operation of the library to change without affecting 
the main structure or sheltering elements. This approach 
requires a different level of investment at the outset in 
the different components of the building. The basic 
structural frame and enclosing facade, since they last 
a long time, enjoy a higher cost threshold than those 
parts with a shorter life. Although this adds to cost in the 
short term, the building enjoys longer adaptive value. 
Related to this strategy is the increasing use of sepa- 
rating the library itself from library storage. The spatial 

Section of a modern academic library. Activities and 
space can change without interfering with the main 
structural elements. (Brian Edwards) 

segregation allows each to expand according to differ- 
ent functional agendas. 

Unless it is well handled, flexibility can compromise 
architectural quality. Total flexibility is itself expensive 
because all areas will need to be air-conditioned, and the 
ducts and floor area required of highly serviced build- 
ings take up valuable library space. Building plant 
should not exceed 1 0% of the volume of the library. It is 
better to have high-serviced and low-serviced zones than 
full air-conditioning. It is preferable too to employ 
natural means of ventilation rather than mechanical 
ones. This creates more attractive libraries (e.g. it 
overcomes the drowsiness suffered by some in such 
buildings) and can enhance the spectacle of the building 
as an object on the campus. 

The expansion in electronic library systems adds a further 
complication to facilities and space management. Com- 
puting saves space but adds environmental complexity. 
However, since terminals release heat whilst in operation, 
the stack effect can be used to ventilate the library naturally 
as long as the interior profile encourages air movement. This 
explains the curvaceous cross-section of many modem 
learning resource centre libraries (e.g. at Sunderland and 

Trends in university libraries 

Growth in student numbers 

Increase in student-centred learning 

Longer opening hours 

Growth in number of books and journals 

Integration of library and computer services 

Clearer focus on research 

Increase in use of IT 

Provision of teaching and seminar rooms in libraries 
Increase in security 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Typical percentage of total stock of books and 

journals held on open shelves by library type 

Type of library 


National library 


Large civic library 


Small civic library 


Mobile library 


Research university 


Typical university 


Specialist university library 


Thames Valley Universities). But since walls and columns 
impede air movement, the environmentally- friendly library 
tends to be open-plan and have a fluid section. Openness is 
an important characteristic of the flexible library but pri- 
vacy, security and noise abatement can be problems with 
excessive spatial connectivity. 

Elements of the university library 

The book and journal stacks on the one hand, and the 
computer areas on the other, represent the two main in- 
formation sources for the student. They are also commonly 

the two principal working areas for undertaking academic 
study. Space is needed, usually in the form of tables and 
chairs, for both retrieving information and using it. Be- 
tween these two worlds sit a number of supporting areas — 
photocopy rooms, short loan, interlibrary loan, security, 
staff offices, small teaching areas and sometimes a cafe. 
The distribution of these various elements is horizontal and 
vertical, and generally arranged on the principle that the 
most commonly visited areas are nearest to the point of 

In the smaller university, scholars have direct access to 
much of the stock, which is primarily held on open shelves. 
In larger universities, particularly those with a strong re- 
search presence, the percentage of the total stock on 
shelves is much lower. Here, specialist subject libraries are 
more common and much of the material within these is 
held in secure storage. A typical university of 25,000 stu- 
dents will house around 500,000 books and 10,000 journal 
volumes on open shelves. In addition, about the same 
number of books and four or five times the number of 
journals will be held in secure book stacks elsewhere (i.e. 
in the basement, a separate wing or separate building). 

Books, journals, theses and electronic data all require 
their own type of accommodation for browsing, use and 
storage. Whereas books are commonly placed on open 
shelves (commonly at right angles to the perimeter wall) in 
stacks spaced about 1.2 m apart, current journals are 
normally placed face out on display shelving, whilst theses 
are placed in dedicated and secure quiet areas. Since the 
student typically moves between the type of study material, 

Typical library provision in two large universities in USA 



UC Berkeley 

Doe Library (undergraduate) 

Moffit Library (postgraduate) 

Bancroft Library (rare and specialist materials) 

20 branch libraries in faculties 

Own website providing electronic database to 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, images from the Louvre, etc. 

Total collection 8 million books 

Stanford University 

Green Library (undergraduate and postgraduate) 

Hoover Library (research and specialist) 

24 branch libraries in faculties 

Own website providing comprehensive electronic 

Total collection 7 million books plus 100 million archive 


The university library 

The library has a duty to give protective weight to the 
collection. Ruskin library designed by MacCormac 
Jamieson Prichard. (Peter Durant) 

proximity is preferred to rigid spatial degradation. This is 
true too of computer-based information and retrieval. 
Whereas a dedicated IT suite is commonly a substantial 
feature of modern university libraries, much electronic 
media is integrated. Hence, books, journals, theses and 
computer terminals share the main spaces of the library — 
though each may also have its own dedicated area. 

As a general rule, about 6—8% of a university’s budget is 
allocated to the library. About a half of this is absorbed by 
salaries, the other half being spent on book and periodical 

Space standards commonly used in planning 
university libraries 

Library 8-10% of total academic floor area 

One reader space for every three-four students based 
upon 2.5 m 2 per reader. 

1 m 2 of shelf-based storage space for every 1 00 books 

75% of total stock held on open shelves in teaching 
universities, 50-60% in research universities. 

Library office space is 12% of total library space. 

Circulation areas represent about 20% of total library 

8-1 0 books per sq. ft in open-shelf reading room, 1 0-1 2 in 
open stack, 12-15 in closed stack, and 40-60 in compact 

Computer-based material occupies 20-25% of total 
library area. 

acquisitions, binding, copying and administration. Most 
universities spend about the same amount each year on 
book and journal acquisition, but the trend is towards 
expanding electronic systems. Computers, network, ca- 
bling and data sources (CD-ROMs) account for about 25% 
of total library expenditure each year, but in many newer 
universities the space and money spent in this area can 
exceed that given to traditional library resources. The 
modern IT-based university library suits business and 
professional courses, and has a particular appeal for stu- 
dents at universities with an ethos of computer-based 
learning. The balance of expenditure and space is both 
a library and a cultural issue. 

The division of library and book storage into separate 
buildings is driven largely by cost concerns. As a general 
rule, the cost of library buildings is about three times that of 
library warehouses (currently in the UK about £ 1,200/m 2 
as against £400/m 2 for book storage bindings). Purpose- 
built warehouses can also store up to three times the 
amount of books that can be housed per square metre in 
libraries. The efficiency on cost grounds of warehousing 
for book storage can be nine times that of the library 
(Urquhart, 1981). This explains the growing tendency in 
large university libraries to separate reading areas from 
storage — a separation which can be over several kilo- 
metres. With the cost differentiation in the region of 
a factor of 6—9, the extra burden of transport and admin- 
istration can readily be absorbed. The main disadvantage is 
the time delay in bringing study material to the reader. 

In planning university libraries, the general standard is 
to allow 1 sq. ft of floor area for every four volumes (1 m 2 
for 40), resulting in a library containing a million books of 
about 250,000 sq. ft (25,000 m 2 ) in total area. Another 
useful rule of thumb is to allocate 1 m 2 per student — hence 
a university of 20,000 students will need a library of about 
20,000 m 2 (or 200,000 sq. ft). However, the type of uni- 
versity influences the basic space calculations. It can be 
assumed that arts courses make greater demand upon 
library use and the books here tend to be larger. Science 
students on the other hand are more likely to use journals 
and IT systems. So whereas the space could be reduced to 
0.8 m 2 per student, the overall cost may be much the same 
since journals and computing are more expensive to 
acquire than books. Since the tendency is for students and 
library resources to expand, it makes little sense to build to 
minimum standards initially. Growth is an unavoidable 
reality of university life but, whereas faculty growth can be 
accommodated by constructing new buildings, the library 
can only grow by building new wings. 

Storage and circulation are important elements of the 
university library. Corridors, stairs, lifts, service ducts and 
toilets account for about 20% of the total floor area. In 
well-designed libraries, corridors and stairs are often part 
of the open-plan reading areas. Walls are often unavoidable 
and should not be built unless absolutely necessary — they 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

impede flexibility and undermine transparency and secu- 
rity. Although fire regulations have an impact, the skilful 
architect will plan the library to reduce their damaging 
effect upon the building as an open interactive learning 

Readers’ seats in the library should be provided at a rate 
of about 20% of the student population of the university. 
Hence, with a university of 20,000, there should be 4,000 
tables and chairs. Where table working is replaced by 
screen scanning, the percentage can be as high as 40%. 
This results in 8,000 computer terminals distributed 
throughout the modern IT library. As an economy, how- 
ever, most academic libraries have a general spread of IT 
facilities at a fairly low level and concentrate terminals in 
special IT suites or learning resource centres. However, 
whereas the shelf and storage needs of IT learning are low, 
the cost of tables, chairs and equipment makes the com- 
puter-based library more expensive to provide than the 
traditional academic library. 

Although circumstances vary according to the type of 
university, about 75% of the total stock of books and 
periodicals is normally on open access with the remainder 
in storage. Clearly, when the total collection exceeds 1 
million items, an increasing amount is held in storage. In 
research-based institutions, the balance of open-shelf 
access and secure storage is roughly equal and, in special 
libraries such as the Ruslcin Library at Lancaster Univer- 
sity, only a minority of the study collection is on open 
access. For calculating library space needs, the designer 
should assume 9 m of shelf storage per 1 ,000 volumes and 
4 m where the material is held in compact storage. 

These figures apply to typical large universities, but in 
college libraries the proportion of books to journals and 
study to research material varies. Normally a large college 
will contain 100,000 books and subscribe to 800 periodi- 
cals and newspapers. Since colleges often accept endow- 
ments of books from distinguished former students, they 
have the habit of growing erratically. Space tends to be 
a greater constraint in such libraries rather than the avail- 
ability of funds or the generosity of benefactors. 

Accommodation needs in the university library 

Display on open shelves of books and periodicals 

Storage of books and periodicals 

Storage and use of audiovisual material 

Tables for electronic media with supplementary storage 

Catalogue search areas 

Counter and control points 

Copying facilities 

Quick reference and short loan area 

Library offices 

Seminar and tutorial rooms 

Private study space (especially for postgraduates) 

Exhibition area 

Media and video rooms 

Typical UK university library: Huddersfield 
University, UK 

Number of students 


Visits to library per year 


Number of books in stock 


Number of periodical titles 


Number of reader’s seats 


Number of computer workstations 




Conceptual diagram of a 
typical university library. 
(Brian Edwards) 


The university library 

As a rule of thumb, the higher the degree level of course 
provided at a university, the greater the demand made upon 
library space and the larger the collection. Whereas in 
a typical university the area of the library is usually about 
8% of the total academic floor area, in a research-based 
university the library may approach 10—12% of total space 
provision. Universities with a large number of masters 
programmes, research students and active research staff 
require more library space, more books and journals, and 
more plentiful access to computers than other institutions. 
Guidelines in the UK allow for a variation of 30% 
depending upon the level and type of education. Normally 
the design team strives for a library which is heavily used, 
since it indicates a good utilization of resources and sug- 
gests a lively learning environment. Under-used libraries 
reflect poor design and management, and duplication 
between central, faculty and domestic facilities. 

Academic libraries require space for quiet study and 
reflecting upon the material, and areas for intensive periods 
of writing. Hence, most libraries zone activities to create 
quiet individual study areas, space for group work, and 
areas where interaction can exist between library use and 
teaching. With the growth in both computer-based study 
and peer group learning, the importance of silent working 
areas should not be overlooked. Besides the culture change 
brought to university libraries by digital and electronic 
systems, the growth in student numbers, triggered by the 
concept that university education is for all, has also 
changed the nature of the university library. It is now an 
open access building serving both students and non-aca- 
demic visitors; it is often available (at least in part) 24 
hours a day and throughout the year. With these changes 
come new demands upon space, security and systems. 
Electronic tagging of all study material is now common- 
place (journals as well as books) and security cameras are 
installed in the most vulnerable areas. Also with the ex- 
pansion of use comes a broadening of the facilities avail- 
able. Copying, video conferencing and e-mail all change 
the nature and type of resources demanded, and with the 
concept of the library as a study centre comes pressure to 
provide cafes, bookshops, exhibition and video loan 

IT and library layout 

Journal acquisition can be an expensive undertaking for 
a university. A typical university such as York University 
spends about £750, 000/year on the purchase of journals. 
Newer universities, such as those formed in 1992 in the UK 
from former polytechnics, tend to subscribe to electronic 
versions of journals. With electronic journals, library 
authorities need to ensure that adequate networks and 
computers exist to access the electronic material both in the 
library and outside. So whilst the investment in journals is 

lower, the investment in PCs and networks is higher. But 
there are two further benefits of electronic journals. 

First, there is an economy of space since extensive 
journal storage will not be required. Although the PCs take 
up a considerable volume of space, they are used exten- 
sively for other purposes and hence afford an overall effi- 
ciency gain. The balance between provision cost (CD- 
ROM as against traditional journal material) and space use 
varies according to the type of library, but the trend is 
towards electronically formatted journals. The other ben- 
efit concerns the access CD-ROMs give to study or re- 
search material for students who are studying part-time. 
For masters and doctoral students, it is fair to assume that 
they have their own networked PCs at home. Hence, 
accessing library information material from home makes 
part-time study more attractive. The ramifications for the 
design of libraries are quite obvious: to provide space and 
connections for PC use throughout the library on the as- 
sumption that information will be accessed electronically 
over the lifetime of the library (at least 50 years). 

Evidence suggests that with computer-based access 
systems and electronically formatted information, the use 
of books and journals actually increases. The idea that 
traditional library material will become redundant is not 
borne out by evidence from a typical UK university (B. 
Kirtley, University of Lancaster, personal communication, 
2000). What computing provides via electronic referencing 
and the Internet is ready access to catalogue material. This 
allows the student to make better use of books and journals, 
both in the immediate library and via interlibrary loan to 
obtain journals, theses and other study material held 

The pattern in academic libraries is likely to be followed 
in public ones. Although universities and colleges invest 
more in their libraries than the public sector, they provide 
a useful model of design and investment for the whole 
library system. This is true not only of new library pro- 
vision but of the refurbishment of older libraries to meet 
new IT demands. The upgrading of traditional academic 
libraries through internal rebuilding and the construction of 
new computer-based wings (as at the Jagger Library, 
University of Cape Town) sets a precedent for the whole 
library sector. Here the new IT wing acts as a bridge be- 
tween the old library and the student union building — it is 
in a sense a social and electronic gateway to the library. 

An interesting arrangement has been created by archi- 
tects MacCormac Jamieson Prichard in their extension to 
the library at the University of Lancaster. Here, open- 
fronted computer rooms on every floor line a central three- 
storey street, glazed at roof level. The arrangement is not 
unlike a shopping mall with different retail units defining 
a wide airy route. Beyond the bank of computer suites sit 
the traditional book stacks, which act as a sound barrier 
between the quiet study area by the exterior windows and 
the relatively noisy central street. The street, or more 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, UK 


Special features 



Domed reading 


and Lodge 


Special collection 
of early books 

New provision for 
and security 

Bold new addition. 

correctly ‘linear atrium’, acts as a communication spine 
through the new library providing access to the reading 
room, which itself focuses upon the detached Ruskin Li- 
brary beyond. This street with its library desk at one end is 
a place to shop for access to the knowledge held elsewhere 
in the library. 

Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, UK 

The Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds is typical 
of university libraries created substantially by private do- 
nation. Although the university library dates from 1919, it 
was a modest affair until Lord Brotherton gifted his col- 
lection in 1935. The Brotherton Collection (as it is still 
known) was an extensive private library of medieval 
manuscripts and rare books, and came with sufficient funds 
to construct a new library building and an endowment to 
cover running costs. Brotherton sought a library where 
students and the general public could ‘wander freely 
through the rooms of a great library’ (Cox, 1981, p. 95). 
The emphasis was upon open access, large promenade 
space, generous stairs and lofty interiors. 

The collection was particularly strong in material from 
the period 1600—1750, and today represents an archive of 
national importance. Around the Brotherton Collection 
grew other gifts and donations, making the library of value 
beyond the needs of that of teaching, research and schol- 
arship within the university. Today, the original collection 
is housed in a self-contained suite within the Brotherton 
Library (which remains the central library for the univer- 
sity). The fragility of some of the books and manuscripts 
requires the material to be housed within special air-con- 
ditioned rooms. The growing monetary value of the col- 
lection (and consequent risk of theft) has also resulted in 
much of it being moved from open shelving to secure 

The Brotherton Library, a fine example of 1930s archi- 
tecture, and its management regime has had to adjust to the 
changes brought about by mass education and the growing 

r -> 


| New IT wing • 


1 | 

p Student 


j_— , — — — 



Conceptual diagram of the linking IT wing at University 
of Cape Town. (Brian Edwards) 

value attached of the original collection. New wings have 
been constructed to accommodate the expanding library and 
former open reading areas have been partially enclosed to 
enhance the level of security. Library resources too have had 
to be spent on conservation measures of various kinds, 
adding to costs. The Brotherton donation and endowment 
makes the library at Leeds University exceptional, but the 
recurrent costs exceed the normal provision of 6% of total 
university expenditure spent on the library. Special collec- 
tions make for libraries of exceptional interest to the aca- 
demic community, but they also lead to special problems of 
funding, access and coherence of purpose between the 
provision of modem texts for students and the care of rare 
books (Cox, 1981, p. 100). 

Jagger Library, University of Cape Town, 
South Africa 

The Jagger Library at the University of Cape Town is 
typical of a modern university — over 1 million books, 
7,000 volumes of journals, extensive special collections 
and little space for expansion. Built in 1918 and expanded 

Jagger Library, University of Cape Town, with 
congregation hall on the right. Both designed by 
Sir Herbert Baker. (Brian Edwards) 


The university library 

Jagger Library, Cape Town University, South Africa 


Special features 


Sir Herbert Baker (extension by Louis 

Edwardian classical design 

1918, extended 2000 

Karol Architects) 

Extension acts as a bridge between old 
library and student union building. 

IT facilities in new wing with emphasis 
upon interaction. 



] bookstacks E3 computer rooms 



Study Space 


New Library 






Old Library 

Conceptual diagram of 
the library arrangement 
at Lancaster University. 
(Brian Edwards) 






Nature of 

Noise zoning in a typical 
academic library. (Brian 

t t 

Gradation of tolerated noise 

^ — ► , 


Permitted Noise 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Noise planning in a typi- 
cal academic library. 
(Brian Edwards) 

periodically, it had by 1999 become quite inadequate es- 
pecially in terms of student access to IT resources. Growth, 
which had over previous decades been accommodated 
partly through the development of faculty libraries, had 
reached the limits of what peripheral space was available. 

The decision was eventually made to build a new wing 
to the Jagger Library, but in such a way that it formed 

a connection with the student union building nearby. This 
allowed the extension to act as a bridge between the social 
aspects of higher education and academic ones. The bridge 
itself is a wing of mainly student resource centre material 
(computer workstations, CD-ROM library), which allows 
the Jagger Library and the student union building to form 
a U-shaped block around Jameson Hall — the central 

The university library of the 1930s is well represented by this example designed in 1934 by Giles Gilbert Scott for 
Cambridge University. (D Insall and Partners) 


The university library 

Open learning study center with university registry 
behind at Saltire Centre, Glasgow. (Brian Edwards) 

Electronic data is fairly economical of space use but 
expensive to acquire. Hence, the new wing is not large but 
intensively used by students. It is a high-tech gateway to 
learning with multiple connections to faculty, departmental 
and, for some academic staff, private electronic libraries. 
As the special collections and other research material are 
converted into electronic formats, the new wing also helps 
to break down the barriers between teaching and research 
by making the material more available in the classroom. 

The new IT wing is known as the ‘knowledge common’ — 
a shared grazing area for students exploiting computer- 
based learning. Library management allows group work and 
talking to take place in small seminar rooms provided 
around the perimeter. So, whereas traditionally teaching 
takes place in the various departments of the university, new 
student-centred learning occurs mainly in the library. The 
advantages are twofold for the university: first it relieves 
space elsewhere and second it allows knowledge systems 
and skill acquisition (analytical, IT, presentation) to be in- 
tegrated via the power of the computer. To allow the latter to 
occur successfully, the new IT wing contains its own area for 
training staff and students in the use of the new technology. 

By concentrating the bulk of the library computer fa- 
cilities in one dedicated area, laptop noise becomes con- 
centrated and does not disrupt the remainder of the library. 
Also, as training and group learning takes place in the same 
space, the insistence upon silence becomes unnecessary. 
The new wing has become a high-tech gateway of learning 
driven by new IT-based knowledge systems, fresh ap- 
proaches to skill development, and increasing reliance 
upon students teaching each other. 

congregation building on campus. Conceptually, the new 
wing reflects the move toward a learning, rather than 
teaching environment at Cape Town University. The new 
wing provides direct access one way to the traditional stock 
of books and journals, and the other to refreshment and 
social facilities. There are extensive computer-networked 
positions integrated into the book-based library floors, but 
the new IT wing, with over 200 dedicated workstations, 
signals a change in emphasis in library use. 

Learning Resource Centre, Thames Valley 
University, Slough, UK 

Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership in 1995, the 
Learning Resource Centre at Thames Valley University 
was one of the first libraries to respond architecturally to 
the IT challenge. The client wanted a building which 
harnessed the latest technology in a design which would 
prove a model for other universities (Anon., 1996, p. 30). 

Learning Resource Centre, Thames Valley University, Slough, UK 


Special features 


Richard Rogers Partnerships 

One of the first learning resource centres 

Designed to reflect IT rather than book 

Employs many sustainable features. 

Creates a relaxed and stimulating 
learning environment. 

£1,1 13/m 2 in 1996 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

- N^ja=w- fc^^feougo) Lnsht 

“- C&*rfaou&? Aq**s M^EMBvrf- 

- ^RB^i-fe lwV\MM2G Li^KfMtS ^VL>lTOKjMeM4 

-K^c^ Ljnk Wrfn Baefi^S 

. OEVBIOP f^^aoe (jOvvJ &tgPsS“[ 

Environmental sketch, 
Learning Resource 
Centre, Thames Valley 
University, by the 
Richard Rogers Part- 
nership. (Richard 
Rogers Partnership) 



In exploiting the potential of IT to enhance the learning 
environment for students, the university sought a model 
for a new generation of libraries which would have 
‘a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere’ (Anon., 1995, 
p. 30). 

Learning resource centres combine elements of the 
traditional library and computer suites. They allow students 
to study at their own pace, in their own time, and using 
a variety of learning styles (Anon., 1996, p. 30). As the 
electronic and information hub of modern universities, 

The Internet has changed the face of the modern 
library. Thames Valley University Learning Resource 
Centre designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership. 
(Katsuhisa Kid/RRP) 

learning resource centres require an image which signals 
the links to the ‘wider global community’. This was the 
challenge put to the architects and which, to a large degree, 
they have met in the design. The design in particular is 
symbolic of the university ethos that ‘learning and 
knowledge should be accessible and enjoyable’ (Anon., 
1996, p. 30). 

The design breaks down into two elements. There is 
a rectangular book and journal storage area which rep- 
resents ‘knowledge’, and an open reading, computer and 
entrance area which represents ‘access’. The latter area is 
contained within a lofty curved glazed volume; the 
former is a traditional three-storey building which pro- 
vides its buttressed support. The open volume houses 
videos, CD-ROMs, laptops and open learning areas, 
while the closed ‘book-stack’ area contains traditional 
book and journal material with carrels along the outer 
north-facing edge. The image produced is one of a fac- 
tory of learning — a huge industrial shed of computers, 
books and people. 

With so much computer use, the problem of creating an 
environment that is not stifled by air-conditioning led to 
many design decisions at a strategic and detailed level. The 
site arrangement places the open computer area to the east 
where morning sunshine encourages stack effect ventila- 
tion. Here the shape and smooth profile of the roof pro- 
motes air movement with the adjoining concrete 
constructed book-stack area providing sufficient thermal 
capacity to moderate temperature peaks. It is a good 
example of architectural elements and books resources 
combining to provide optimum conditions without 
resorting to air-conditioning. 


The university library 

Plan, Learning Resource Centre, Thames Valley University, by the Richard Rogers Partnership. (Richard Rogers 

Night-time view, Learning Resource Centre, Thames 
Valley University, by the Richard Rogers Partnership. 
(Katsuhisa Kid/RRP) 

The library is entered from the south where a cafe pro- 
vides a welcoming counterpoint to the library control desk. 
The cafe projects into a small courtyard, defining movement 
patterns and signalling the entrance to the learning resource 
centre. Upon entering the building, visitors face a long vista 
with the open reading and computer area to one side and the 
book-stack floors to the other. A central staircase on the 
entrance axis leads visitors upwards to two further floors. 
Routes are clearly identified within a large open-plan 
building and, with totally glazed gables, students have no 
trouble orientating themselves by external features. 

Transparency and the interconnection of function are 
themes of the building. The idea that computers and books 
can be combined in student-centred learning finds direct 
expression here both in the plan and, more noticeably, in 
the section of the building. The fluidity of volume is helped 
by the incorporation of a deck in the main reading room 
which avoids direct contact with the perimeter walls. Light 
and space flow around the deck encouraging a relaxed at- 
mosphere where the mind can wander across the bound- 
aries of subjects. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

This is a library where both subject barriers and distinc- 
tions between modes of learning are deliberately eroded. 
Flexibility is provided by extensive use of raised floors with 
integral cable and ducting space. Air movement (necessary 
for maintaining a stimulating and comfortable working 
environment) relies upon mechanical fans, opening win- 
dows (on a computerized building management system) and 
on the profile of the building itself. It assumes that the life of 
the learning resource centre as represented by the students 
and their computer use play an active part in creating an 
environment of learning — both physical and intellectual. 
The heat generated, plus that of the sun, provides most of the 
energy needed for heating and ventilation. In this sense, the 
Learning Resource Centre at Thames Valley University is 
a useful model of the sustainable library of the future. Al- 
though the building services costs of this energy-efficient 
design were slightly higher than the norm, the building has 
substantially reduced running costs, giving a payback 
period of under 10 years (Anon., 1995, pp. 34, 38). 

Law Library, Cambridge University, UK 

Constructed alongside James Stirling’s History Faculty 
Building on the Sidgwick arts campus, the Law Library at 
Cambridge designed in 1994 by Foster and Partners, ac- 
commodates the largest law faculty library in the country. It 
serves over 1,000 students of law and nearly 100 faculty 
staff. The 9000 m 2 building houses the library, teaching 
rooms, five auditoria and staff offices. The library, which 
serves both undergraduate and postgraduate needs, has 
significant research collections and is conceived as one large 
interconnecting space. The compartmentalization into 
rooms, common in some faculty libraries where research 

Working tables provided at the perimeter of the Law 
Library, Cambridge University. Designed by Foster 
and Partners. (Dennis GilbertA/iew) 



The inside is solt, a walled garden, quiet, 
contemplative, tranquil, an oasis. 

Exterior concept sketch of Law Library, Cambridge 
University, by Lord Foster. (Foster and Partners) 

occurs, is avoided in order to create one shared volume for 
intellectual exchange. It is an arrangement which provides 
an immediate feeling of spaciousness and offers the further 
advantage of embedding flexibility in the use of space. 

An unusual form of structure is employed in order to 
construct a library of largely column-free interiors and 
spatial connectivity. The floors are built as a series of 
stepped levels interdependent of the roof and the perimeter 
wall. The latter consists of one huge curving glass facade, 

Interior concept sketch of Law Library, Cambridge 
University, by Lord Foster. (Foster and Partners) 


The university library 

Section, Law Library, Cambridge University. (Foster and Partners) 

Law Library, Cambridge University, UK 

Architect Special features Cost 

Sir Norman Foster and Partners Energy-efficient library £2, 000/m 2 (approx.) 

Large faculty library combined with teaching space 
Fluid cross-section and open plan 

Partly underground to reduce visual impact and conserve energy 
Employs unusual steel triangulated construction. 

which encloses the library on its long northern elevation 
and sweeps over the roof to form the stainless steel cornice 
of the southern facade. The effect is to produce a triple 
height volume and a sense of flowing activity with islands 
of intensity at key points. 

Each floor plate has a different dimension in order to 
accommodate the curving wall. The supporting columns 
are not vertical but angled. Thus, the columns define two 
types of space — an open working promenade alongside the 
glazed facade and an area of book stacks in the centre of the 
building. The promenade has tables and study space posi- 
tioned so that the students are midway between the views 
out over adjoining lawns and the library resources posi- 
tioned in the core. It is an arrangement which balances 
distant prospect with intensive close work and contrasts 
narrow aisle space between book stacks with the spa- 
ciousness of the promenade. 

There are no problems of solar heat gain as the curved 
glazed facade faces north. Instead, the light is even with the 
sun shining onto the external view rather than penetrating 
into the building. The neutrality of daylight is ideal for both 
book and computer screen use. The tables are arranged at 
right angles to the promenade space, with task lighting 

provided from a strip just above eye level. Background 
lighting is relatively low (for energy efficiency), allowing 
pools of light to be employed as a means of orientating 
users through the building (e.g. reception desk, staircases 
and auditoria entrance). 

Light and space relate activities to zones of the building. 
The curved section and triangular entrance make for an 
unusual library. Visitors arrive at a projecting prow and are 
taken along the glazed western facade. Opposite, and 
affording some protection from low-angled sunlight, is 
Stirling’s history faculty building (now listed), whose 
alignment determined Foster’s splayed entrance. Visitors 
enter a shaft of light which extends the perception upwards 
to the main library (on the first, second and third floors) and 
downwards to the auditorium and teaching rooms on the 
lower ground floor. Major routes are taken through the 
well-lit areas, with the main diagonally placed staircase 
always bathed in bright light (and often sunlight). As 
a result the circulation strategy and lighting design are in 
step, with the available routes being easily perceived, and 
hence the functional spaces reached effortlessly. 

Except on the west gable where sunlight identifies the 
entrance, solar penetration is controlled by careful 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 












The university library 

Exterior view, Law Library, Cambridge University. 
(Dennis Gilbert/View) 

planning. The staff offices and seminar rooms are posi- 
tioned on the south side where the elevations can be 
designed to limit sunlight penetration. Here a combination 
of Portland stone cladding, louvres and solar glass ensures 
that light penetrates to the interior without glare or ex- 
cessive heat gain. 

The building is relatively energy efficient for a specialist 
faculty library. By positioning the main 250-seat audito- 
rium, large teaching rooms and bookstore below ground, the 
library benefits from earth cooling — thereby reducing air- 
conditioning loads. Above ground the building is mainly 
naturally ventilated. The mixed-mode system reduces duct 
volume and provides the opportunity to extract heat from 
one system to benefit the other (by employing heat recovery 
technology). It is the search for energy efficiency which 
gives shape to the cross-section and makes for an interesting 
landmark amongst distinguished neighbours. 

Library, University of Abertay, Dundee, 

A key aspect of the brief for the main academic library at 
the University of Abertay outside Dundee in Scotland was 
the need to respond to the growth in IT and the corre- 
sponding reduction in ‘hard copy’ (Fresson, 1998). The 
university has a static book collection and expects this to 
decline as the digital library expands. The three key ele- 
ments of the new library are: 

• IT learning resource centre 

• specialist study collection 

• training library for local businesses. 

Concept sketches Library, University of Abertay, Dundee. (The Parr Partnership) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

1. Quiet study 6. Library 

2,3,8. offices 7. Language suite 

4. IT area 9. seminar and formal teaching 

5. reprographics 

Plan, Library at the University of Abertay, Dundee 1, Quiet study; 2,3,8, offices; 4, IT area; 5, reprographics; 6, 
Library; 7 Language suite; 9, seminar and formal teaching. (The Parr Partnership) 

The challenge for the architects, the Parr Partnership, was 
to create a building which expressed the high-tech nature of 
the library whilst also providing a strong architectural 
statement at the centre of a new campus. 

The library has three main zones: a highly glazed open- 
plan library reading room, IT and book-stack area; a cir- 
cular teaching and seminar drum; and back-up office and 
service areas. The first of these zones has a curving line of 
study desks against the outside wall, the second is an 
inward-looking room for intense library-based group work 
and for conducting seminars, while the third forms a bank 
of cellular accommodation on the north side of the build- 
ing. These different zones are expressed separately to 
provide legibility to users of the library and to allow each 
part to be designed according to specific functional and 
technical needs. 

The main segment-shaped library is glazed continuously 
on the outside and has book stacks towards the rear to 

create introspective study areas. These are served by IT 
facilities which employ floor cable peninsulas running 
from ducts constructed in the rear wall. The subdivision of 
this area into study bays is achieved by a combination of 
book-stack alignment and structural columns, which es- 
tablish working zones. The columns are on two patterns: 
one follows the linear line of the offices, the other the 
curved facade to the south. The presence of these contra- 
dictory grids creates an ambiguity which helps reinforce 
casual use of the large library reading room. 

Between the bank of offices facing north and the curved 
southerly reading room is a corridor with a roof light on the 
top floor. The effect of the roof glazing is to form a slot of 
daylight to help articulate the zones of the library. The 
office ‘wall’ acts as a barrier between the car park to the 
north and the study areas to the south. It projects out on 
both east and west gables, forming an element that clearly 
services the whole. Within the ‘wall’ are positioned offices, 

Library, University of Abertay, Dundee, Scotland 


Special features 


The Parr Partnership 

Flexible library to accommodate growth in IT and decline in book use 

Creates transparent reading room as gateway to new campus. 

Clearly articulated library to express three main functional zones. 

Has intelligent double-glazed ‘energy’ wall. 

Not available 


The university library 

photocopying rooms, language suites, staircases and toi- 
lets. Constructed of concrete and faced in sandstone, the 
solidity of the ‘wall’ makes a deliberate contrast to the 
transparency of the main parts of the library. 

Unusually the main library has a southerly aspect. 
Normally this would provide almost insurmountable 
problems, but in Scotland the problem of solar gain and 
glare can be overcome. The southern facade, built on 
a sweeping curve, is double-glazed with air drawn between 
the layers of glass, which are constructed 400 mm apart. 
Mature trees outside provide useful summertime shade, 
which is augmented by external-fixed bris-soleil and 
automatic internal blinds which adjust according to the 
intensity of the sun. 

By placing working desks against the facade, the library 
always appears to be enlivened by student industry. Having 
a peopled elevation facing the centre of the campus creates 
a good impression for the university, whilst providing an 
opportunity for the students to exercise surveillance over 
the central campus. This is particularly evident at the li- 
brary entrance where the glazed fagade is pulled back to 
directly overlook the external courtyard alongside the 
library control point. 

\A stone-faced drum penetrates the glazed reading room, 
providing a further measured contrast to the general air of 
transparency. Inside on three floors are the formal teaching 
and intensive IT training areas. These areas need more 
controlled daylight and environmental conditions than in 
the main reading room. Windows are deeply set into the 
stone wall, creating a keep-like quality which hints at 
Scotland’s castle style. The drum has its own staircase so 
that it can operate independently of the library. Between the 
drum element and the office wall is an over-sailing canopy 
which protects the library entrance and signals its presence. 

Library, Cranfield University, UK 

The library at Cranfield University designed in 1991 by 
Foster and Partners broke the mould of library design. It 
was one of the first academic libraries to establish an in- 
tegrated provision of book and IT, and the first to 
incorporate library and lecture theatres in a single building. 
As Cranfield University is primarily a postgraduate 
institution built around industrial collaboration in the sci- 
ence, management and technology areas, the library was 
seen as reinforcing this character by the provision of 
a high-tech, user-friendly building. As much of the mate- 
rial housed in the library is of a research nature (particu- 
larly collections relating to aerospace technology), there 
was also a need to balance access with security, further- 
more, postgraduate library users were often part-time 
masters or doctoral students and their demands were in- 
creasingly met by electronic rather than book or journal 

Open reading room sparsely furnished at Cranfield 
University Library. Designed by Foster and Partners. 
(James Morris/Foster and Partners) 

The image of the library was seen at the outset as an 
important consideration. Its role was not only to provide 
effective library services, but to act as a building which 
would attract students to Cranfield University. Hence the 
streamlined shape with metallic curved roof forms, 
extensive glazing and use of expressed solar control — all 
creating a modern high-tech, environmentally conscious 
image. The latter was perceived as important because of 
the ‘building’s symbolic placement at the focal point of the 
Cranfield campus’ (Blagden, 1997). 

The library is square in plan and three storeys high with 
an over-sailing arched roof. It is a shape that offers both 
adaptability and extendibility. The internal columns order 
the accommodation into logical bays. In effect, the building 

Library, Cranfield University, designed by Foster and 
Partners. (Foster and Partners) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Library, University of Cranfield, UK 

Architect Special features Cost 

Sir Norman Foster and Partners Postgraduate, technology-based library £1 ,600/m 2 (approx.) 

Integrated library, teaching and lecture facilities 

Integrated book, journal and IT access around perimeter study desks 

Has high-level IT access and small collection. 

Exploits daylight to reduce energy use. 

Has a high-tech appearance to symbolize university’s technological 

is a simple well-lit case which can accommodate a variety of 
uses over time. The absence of walls and the presence inside 
of the triple height arched bays provides a sense of openness 
which encourages academic and social interaction. One 
criticism voiced by users, however, was noise leakage from 
the atrium to study areas, from the lecture theatres to the 
library itself, and from group working areas to those set 
aside for private study (Blagden, 1995, p. 45). These prob- 
lems emanate from the modem concept of the academic 
library as a place of exchange rather than the traditional one 
as a place for private reading. At Cranfield, the decision to 
combine lecture rooms and library space into a single shell 
carried inevitable consequences for acoustic control. 

The four parallel steel-framed bays provide the essential 
functional order for the library. Activities are arranged 
along the grain of the bays, whose vaulted ceilings provide 
orientation for users. Legibility, so important in complex 
libraries, is achieved by synchronizing the activity zones 
with the character of the architectural space. Book stacks 
and study carrels provide sub-bays which fit tidily into the 
stmctural order. Since daylight is introduced via the roof 
vaults as well as by perimeter glazing, the effect is to bring 
natural light into the interior in a fashion which reinforces 
the pattern of use. 

Since most readers prefer to work at the building pe- 
rimeter, where one can balance quiet study with exterior 
views, the challenge is to provide optimum conditions for 
both book and computer use. In an ideal world, IT facilities 
would be located in areas away from external glazing where 
screen glare can be controlled. However, readers and 
computers do not share the same performance objectives 
and the challenge at Cranfield was in creating good working 
conditions for a variety of study modes at the building edge. 
To achieve this, the glazing on the east and west elevations 
(where low-angled sun is a problem) is set well back behind 
the over-sailing vaulted roof. On the south elevation, the 
glazing is protected from the sun by aluminium louvres set 
between the steel columns. In addition, the glass is coated 

for both sunlight protection and energy conservation. These 
measures not only provide good working conditions at the 
edge of the building, they also give good daylight penetra- 
tion without unwanted glare or solar gain. 

A continuous study desk now mns around the perimeter 
of the library with working bays set at the generous pro- 
vision of 1 .6 m — a width which provides for simultaneous 
use of book and personal computer (Blagden, 1995, p. 44). 
Data, network communications and power points are pro- 
vided every 800 mm on the desktop. It is a level of pro- 
vision which reflects Cranfield’ s ethos as a postgraduate 
technology-based university. 

Small study areas also exist for group work with larger 
seminar spaces dispersed on the upper floors. Although the 
library is mainly on the first and second floor with the 
lecture theatres on the ground floor, the library storage is 
placed on the ground floor for ease of external access. The 
Aerospace Research Archive is also placed here where it 
can be air-conditioned in conjunction with the lecture 

The three-storey configuration of the library is based 
upon the logic of dissertation, archive and lecture facilities 
on the ground floor, books on the first floor and periodicals 
on the second. It is an arrangement which makes the use of 
the library straightforward, but is not readily transferable 
since most academic libraries would normally seek to hold 
a far larger book collection and rely less on journals. Also, 
unlike some recent university libraries, electronic and tra- 
ditional sources are fully integrated though at the cost of 
extensive perimeter ducting. Since Cranfield recognized 
the growing impact of IT systems on postgraduate training, 
the decision was made as early as 1991 to provide a fibre 
optic wiring infrastructure which would meet future needs 
as well as current ones (Blagden, 1995, p. 44). This IT 
resilience added to the initial cost but helped structure the 
building into its present form. It also allowed the library to 
be smaller than one would expect of a research facility, 
since most students and staff were expected to access 


The university library 

material electronically. The comparatively small hard copy 
collection and large IT provision was a forerunner of a new 
generation of libraries (Blagden, 1995, p. 46) — ones which 
are smaller but more expensive to build and equip. If access 
is the key then cost yardsticks need to be modified to reflect 
quality rather than quantity of provision. The Cranfield 
Library opened up an important debate about how far 
academic libraries should rely upon electronic access as 
against developing a study collection of their own. 

Learning Resource Centre, Anglia Ruskin 
University, Essex, UK 

Known as the Queen’s Building, the Learning Resource 
Centre at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, Essex 
is a library that integrates new concepts of low-energy 
design and IT provision into a coherent whole. The 
building successfully explores energy-efficient environ- 
mental practices in the fields of heating, lighting and the 
choice of construction materials whilst incorporating these 
in a fashion which provides for optimum conditions for 
computer-centred library use. Flexibility and simplicity of 
operation are the keys to this successful design (it won the 
UK’s Green Building of the Year award in 1996). 

The library, designed by ECD Architects with engineers 
Ove Arup & Partners, creates a landmark building for 
a new campus. It signals both the presence of an IT library 
and also the location of a university on a site which was 
formerly used for industrial purposes. In this sense, the 
image of the library was important in signalling the type of 
university it served (Benny, 1995, p. 34). As a focal 
building with a high level of transparency, it was designed 
to give identity and unify a fragmented city landscape. 

The Queen’s Building is an early example of a library 
designed for retrieval from an IT resource rather than book or 
journal sources. It was not conceived as a quiet place filled 
with book stacks, but as a busy, bustling, high-tech library. 
This different character allowed for the integration of low- 
energy systems such as open-plan atriums exploring natural 
ventilation and daylight instead of air-conditioning. It also led 
to the provision of social space — restaurant and common 

Learning Resource Centre, Anglia Ruskin University, 
designed by ECD Architects. (Anglia Ruskin 

rooms— within the library. Thus, the openness of the building 
supported the concept of an interactive IT library and facili- 
tated flexibility of future layout by employing the minimum 
of enclosing walls. The open nature of the building occurs 
both in plan and section, allowing space and activities to flow 
freely both horizontally and vertically. 

The Queen’s Building rises from three to four storeys in 
height and is topped by the glass lanterns of the two atri- 
ums. The ground floor is a social hub and the top floor 
houses research, TV studio and staff offices. The use of two 
atriums brings daylight into the centre of the library and 
allows ventilation to occur using the stack effect. Book 
stacks are positioned at right angles to the atriums with 
study spaces served by computers with video links 
arranged around the perimeter of the building. Each of the 
700 study desks is wired for IT, which is threaded inwards 
from perimeter trunking (rather than raised floors). 

The brief for the new library required ‘an environ- 
mentally conscious, low-energy building’ (Benny, 1995, p. 
35). The client was keen to avoid a sealed, air-conditioned 
building on the grounds of inflexibility in the face of 
changing IT and educational needs, and because of 

Queen’s Library, Anglia Ruskin University, UK 


Special features 


ECD Architects 

Atrium-based low energy design 

Maximize natural light and ventilation. 

Intelligent triple-glazed fagade with double-light shelves 

Integrated environmental strategy with IT provision. 

£680/m 2 in 1993 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

running and maintenance costs. Since the main element of 
energy use in libraries is in lighting, the decision was 
made to maximize the use of daylight and, at the same 
time, to exploit the secondary heat of the lighting sources. 
This led to a range of consequential decisions from narrow 
plan depth, central atriums, triple-glazing with twin light- 
shelves, lofty ceiling heights and high structural thermal 
capacity (Edwards, 1998, p. 107). With so many com- 
puters in use, the problem through the year is not one of 
heating but cooling — hence the use of through ventilation 
with opening windows operated by a computerized 
building management system and exposed concrete con- 
struction to absorb the heat and dispense it through night- 
time cooling. 

The integration of library functions with environmental 
design is a feature of the Queen’s Building. For example, 
the two atrium spaces provide social hubs for the library 
whilst aiding orientation through a typically large aca- 
demic building. The use of internal light- shelves and high- 
level opening windows also has the effect of deterring the 
theft of books and computers. Task lighting is widely 
employed, allowing readers to adjust conditions to suit 
their needs. With a plan depth of 1 1 m up to the central 
atrium, spaces have a feeling of openness and tranquillity 
— an effect enhanced by the unusually high ceilings 
(3.2 m). 

The environmental strategy seeks to provide comfort- 
able conditions for readers and staff without complex 
controls. Typically of new universities, the library has to 
provide a good working environment when subject to 
a high density of use by people and a high level of com- 
puter use. The combination of people and computers 
stresses working conditions through noise, pollution, 
casual heat gain and humidity. Density of occupation by 
readers and IT rather than by books is a feature of modern 
academic libraries. What is noteworthy about the Queen’s 
Building is the way natural systems of lighting and venti- 
lation, and natural materials with low toxicity in con- 
struction, add up to a library which is attractive to use and 
efficient in operation, which provides flexibility without 
excessive cost (in fact at a price of £680/m 2 in 1993 the 
library is below cost norms (Edwards, 1998, p. 104) and 
quietly landmarks a new campus. 

One consequence of these features was the occupation 
of part of the building by the vice-chancellor. The vice- 
chancellor’s office and supporting administration took over 
part of the top floor just prior to occupation. The library 
was sufficiently flexible to accommodate this late change 
of use. Clearly in a world of rapid change, libraries need to 
be able to absorb the unexpected. A key to this occurring at 
the Queen’s Building was the shallow plan depth, regular 
structural grid and optimum use of windows. Had the li- 
brary had the normal 22-40 m floor depth, there would 
have been no opportunity to convert part of the building 
into a conventional office (Benny, 1995, p. 36). 

Aldham Robarts Learning Resource Centre, 
Liverpool John Moores University, UK 

The Aldham Robarts Learning Resource Centre, designed 
in 1992 by Austin-Smith: Lord, was one of the first aca- 
demic libraries in the UK to effectively combine traditional 
library and computer services into a single integrated 
building. It is a large building in excess of 6000 m 2 with 
720 networked PC-based workspaces and a capacity of 
a quarter of a million volumes. The Aldham Roberts 
Learning Resource Centre, named after its Canadian pub- 
lishing benefactor, is one of three integrated centres built to 
serve a university of 14,000 students. This one meets the 
needs of the Schools of Business, Built Environment, 
Design, Media Studies, Social Work and Law. The build- 
ing is the result of the convergence of two services — library 
and computing — and does so with a design which 
deliberately erodes boundaries between types of provision. 

The Aldham Robarts Centre anticipates the age of the 
fully electronic campus with its network connections to all 
staff and some student PCs. The building has a raised floor 
throughout for flexibility of power and data cables. It also has 
shelving which can be turned through 90 degrees or 
converted to study places (Revill, 1995, p. 56). The design, 
based upon a deep plan with a cruciform of roof-glazed 
corridors that radiate out from an entrance atrium, provides 
a rational grid of structural bays (7.2 m 2 ) capable of use by 
traditional library or IT services. The Learning Resource 
Centre is able to accommodate six networked services— CD- 
ROM, multimedia, interactive sound, MAC, PC and Dec 
Athena — with workstations typically connected to 3—5 of 
these services according to subject need (Revill, 1995, p. 56). 

Since it is estimated that students at the university spend 
seven hours per week in library study and a similar number 
of hours on computing activities (Revill, 1995, p. 58), the 
decision to combine both in equal measure was a natural 
response. Not all universities would expect the same results 
— traditional universities depend more upon teaching, 
which creates orthodox library use. However, newer uni- 
versities, such as those in the UK based within former 
polytechnics, rely more upon a student-centred learning 
environment with its more extensive computer use. With 
14 hours a week devoted to library and computer activities 
(or about a third of overall student study time), the quality 
of the Learning Resource Centre is critical. As a result, the 
Aldham Robarts Centre is designed as a central feature on 
campus and has an inviting large glazed entrance foyer. 
This leads to an information desk whereby students are 
directed to study material and given advice on the com- 
puting facilities available. 

Some group working areas have book stacks, providing 
partial noise baffles. Generally, the emphasis is upon quiet 
personal study space arranged mainly around the building 
perimeter. Book stacks, where they occur, are absorbed 


The university library 

Design sketch, Aldham 
Robarts Learning Re- 
source Centre, Liverpool 
John Moores University. 
(Austin-Smith: Lord) 

within the library’s structural grid. Columns (spaced in 
both directions 7.2 m apart) define use either as book or 
journal shelving, as group study areas or as staff offices. 
The rationality of the configuration supports flexibility and 
leads to economies in servicing layout. 

Two glazed corridors bisect the space at right angles. 
These terminate in staircases and, at the crossing, define the 
information or help desks placed on each of the building’s 
three floors. The corridors each feed directly from the large 
entrance atrium and act rather like high streets leading to 

Aldham Robarts Learning Resource Centre, Liverpool John Moores University, UK 


Special features 


Austin-Smith: Lord 

Deep planned learning resource centre 

Raised floors and artificial lighting 

Fully integrated IT and book systems. 

Has networked PCs able to access six IT 

Designed as a symbolic learning gateway 
to twenty-first century. 

£1 ,510/m 2 in 1994 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

K ' * ' t 

Large simple volumes provide greater flexibility than 
irregular shapes, University of Hertfordshire Library. 
Here the shelving units and cantilevered floor soffits 
contain noise absorbent panels provided by Forster 
Ecospace. Architects: Architects Co. Partnership. 
(Forster Ecospace) 

a variety of ‘shops’ along their route. In this sense, the 
students browse the facilities on offer in the different 
subject zones reflecting the client’s objective of a ‘sym- 
bolic gateway to the world of learning and the twenty-first 
century’ (Revill, 1995, p. 55). 

A constraint on the design was the presence on an 
adjoining site of a listed but derelict neoclassical church. 
Its generous proportions and height were, the city planning 
authority suggested, to be respected. By setting the new 
building partly underground, the cupolas of the church 
were able to rise above the general roofline. By adopting 
a building based upon cubes, and solid and void elements, 
the Aldham Robarts Centre also reflects the scale, rhythm 
and proportional harmonies of the church. Not only is the 
church able to stand in dignified prominence amongst 
newer and larger neighbours, but the general character of 

the ‘fine-grained conservation area’ has been preserved 
(Sunderland, 1995, p. 60). 

The philosophy of a simple box of learning which is 
divided and further divided into basic cubic forms mirrors, 
conceptually at least, the Windows programmes of PCs. 
This allows the user to search through the scales of pro- 
vision relating physical space to virtual space. It also leads 
to economies of construction, of wiring and cabling, and 
the development of a consistent language of built forms 
and assemblies (from glazing and shelving to IT 

The zoning of the building puts the noisier activities on 
the ground floor and in the basement; the progressively 
quieter ones occur as the building rises. High-level links 
connect the Learning Resource Centre to adjoining faculty 
buildings, with the possibility of a connection to the ad- 
jacent derelict church. Study spaces are arranged in groups 
of four around the building perimeter and determine the 
glazing grid, which itself informs the structural grid (two 
study bays per column bay). This symbolically at least 
allows the particular dimensions of private study to de- 
termine the geometry of the whole. 

Library, Delft Technical University, The 

The new library at Delft Technical University breaks with 
the modernist tradition of rational rectangular volumes. 
Designed by Mecanoo, this is a library of sloping roofs, 
angled walls, tilting facades and complex internal spaces. 
The logic derives from landscape metaphors — especially 
the Dutch fascination with ground planes, water and formal 
planting. In effect, this large new university library is an 
extension of the campus landscape rather than a building. 
To achieve this end, it is built partly sunk into the ground 
with the grass sward swept over the roof. The building 
reads as a series of slices of landscape capped by a cone 
which signals the presence of the reading room. This one 

Library, Delft Technical University, The Netherlands 


Special features 



Large technical university library with 
national scientific collection 

Places collection below ground for 
security and ideal environmental 

Building conceived as an element of 

Dramatic cone shaped reading room. 

Not available 


Library, Delft Technical University, The Netherlands: (a) plan; (b) section. (Mecanoo Architects) 

gesture to nineteenth century library typology rescues the 
building from anonymity and signals the presence on 
campus of a building of significance, if not actually 
a library. 

The tilting glass fagade, curved roof and irregular trap- 
ezoidal plan give the library the appearance of a ‘sleek, 
shimmering glass wave’ (Van Cleef, 1999, p. 45). 
Constructed alongside a canal and in a country where rising 
sea levels due to global warming are an ever-present threat, 

the wave is perhaps an ominous warning. It is not a dark 
wave, but a wave of light, which in the evenings seems to 
be pushing across the campus. Metaphors aside, this library 
demands attention as an exercise in new forms of library 
planning — and it is the nature of the collection which 
largely determines the architectural response. 

This library houses the Dutch national archive for 
technical and natural sciences. The library’s collection of 
over a million publications is housed in the basement 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

where environmental conditions are best controlled. Here 
temperature and humidity can be maintained more readily 
than above ground, and there is greater security against 
theft or sabotage of the collection. Only 80,000 volumes 
are housed on accessible steel bookcases reached by 
walkways and gantries. The remainder of the library col- 
lection is accessed by staff who retrieve the material via 
glass lifts which travel to the basement and rise theatrically 
into the reading areas. 

The library creates different types of working environ- 
ments from private cellular study cubicles to airy, commu- 
nal reading rooms (Van Cleef, 1999, p. 47). About 
a thousand study spaces are available, most in a grand 
double height reading space overlooking the tree-lined canal 
alongside the library’s northern edge. It is an orientation 
which avoids solar heat gain whilst maximizing daylight 
penetration by the use of continuous facade glazing. As 
a general strategy, study areas and library offices face out- 
wards over the campus with book stacks and open bookcases 
facing inwards towards the centre. Such an arrangement 
provides good working conditions (natural light and venti- 
lation) at the building perimeter whilst affording optimum 
conditions for book and journal storage at the centre. 

The core of the library is dramatically penetrated by 
a cone that rises from the basement to break through the 
roof and rise above it by two storeys, culminating in an 
open structure of steel members. This houses, on four 
floors, a circular reading room with a central void of 
cylindrical space providing a sense of physical and 
intellectual connection. Where the cone punctures the 
ceiling it is surrounded by a ring of roof lights and is itself 
roofed by a glazed ceiling. Light and geometrical volumes 
evoke an idealized image of cosmic harmony whose ori- 
gins extend back to libraries of the early nineteenth century 
(e.g. University of Virginia Library, USA). 

The non-parallel geometry of the library contrasted with 
the strict geometric order of the reading room cone creates 
exciting collisions which animate the internal space. Much 
of the apparent disorder derives from the wedge-shaped 
entrance which brings readers into a position off centre. The 
asymmetry and angularity seem at odds with rational 
planning: in plan the bookcases appear to impede the per- 
ception of interior space. Like a fragment of the city, there 
are elements of the Delft Library which are arranged with 
the discipline of the right angle, but other areas are fractured 
or collaged by the colliding geometries of the whole. 

Many aspects of Mecanoo’s design are the result of 
seeking to provide ideal conditions for study and book 
storage. The outward tilted glazed facades ensure the 
maximum of daylight penetration without solar heat gain. 
Air is pumped through the 140 mm thick double-glazing to 
ventilate at roof level, thereby avoiding drafts for readers at 
the building edge. The turf-clad over-sailing roof provides 
shelter and shade. The thick-planted roof (which extends as 
a continuation of the grass-planted campus) provides good 

thermal and acoustic insulation. Evaporation of rainwater 
helps with summertime cooling, assisted by subterranean 
tubes linked to rainwater tanks (Van Cleef, 1999, pp. 47— 
48). These cool the building in the summer and assist with 
heating in the winter via a heat exchanger. The books and 
journals are stored in a sealed basement where air-condi- 
tioning provides optimum conditions for conservation. 

The Delft University Library creates a distinctive 
building out of unusual conditions. By combining the de- 
mands of building functionality with site planning and 
sustainable practices, technical and aesthetic elements are 
fused. Though as much metaphor as rigorous design, this 
library transcends the limits of rationality to forge 
a modem democratic monument for a large technical uni- 
versity with a national science collection. 

The Catherine Cookson Reading Room, 
University of Sunderland, UK 

This reading room, dedicated to silent learning, stands as 
an independent stmcture within the courtyard of an earlier 
university library. The original library, mainly of learning 
resource centre character, suffered from keyboard noise 
and the disturbance of group study. Students felt the need 
for a sanctuary for quiet reading away from the bustle of 
the main library. 

The free-standing room is set into the horseshoe-shaped 
courtyard, allowing light and ventilation to reach the main 
library. The reading room has an irregular piano-shaped 
plan with a continuous glazed edge. To emphasize the 
sanctuary nature of the building, the windows are set down 
low to give views only when seated. From the windows, the 
readers look onto a planted courtyard and beyond to the 
outside walls of the university’s electronic library. The 
roof-deck upon which the reading room is built serves as 
a terrace where students can read in the open air. Seats and 
planting form an intimate garden which complements the 
tranquil interior of the reading room. 

The irregular shaped reading room is inspired by the 
Finnish architect Atvar Aalto (Edwards, 1997). Nature is 
deliberately evoked by the use of mushroom-shaped col- 
umns, the tree tmnk-like outline of the reading room and 
the use of vertical timber battens inside and out (in beech 
on the interior, Oregon pine on exterior). Light enters the 
reading room via a perimeter skirt of glazing and through 
roof lights, evoking a sense that the forest canopy is opened 
to allow light to flood onto tables. 

Although some books are stored in the reading room in 
free-standing bookshelves, this is essentially a place for 
quiet study. The design seeks to create a relaxed and 
contemplative environment, conducive to deep book-based 
study. Being a silent space (for both staff and students), 
there is an undeniable sense of reverence for the printed 
word. The building is a deliberate counterpoint to the 


The university library 

Catherine Cookson 
Reading Room, Univer- 
sity of Sunderland, de- 
signed by Building 
Design Partnership. 

(M Hamilton-Knight) 

Catherine Cookson Reading Room, University of Sunderland, UK 


Special features 


Building Design Partnership 

Reading room dedicated to silent study 

Placed in courtyard of an older electronic 

Has external terrace for outside reading. 

Inspired by architecture of Atvar Aalto. 

Evokes spirit of forest clearing. 

£905/m 2 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

market hall ambience of the encircling IT library. It is 
a fitting reminder of the importance of traditional values in 
modern library design. 

The Saltire Centre, Glasgow Caledonia 

The Saltire Centre designed by BDP is one of a new gen- 
eration of university libraries which effectively combine in 
one building a large book-based study collection, extensive 
IT-orientated study areas, cafes, bookshops, university 
registry and student union facilities. The emphasis is upon 
accommodating wireless technology and making it the 
primary focus of library usage. The aim is to use new 
technology to reach out to a generation of school leavers 
who would not normally enter higher education (Marmot, 
2005, p. 78). The premise is that IT enhances the excite- 
ment of learning in contrast to the intimidating culture of 
book-based education. 

The building is designed to be fashionable and fun, 
attractive and accessible at any hour, and a place for shared 

Study pod at Saltire Centre, Glasgow Caledonia 
University. (BDP/J Cooper) 

Exterior view of Saltire Centre, Glasgow Caledonia 
University. (BDP/J Cooper) 

ideas and knowledge (Marmot, 2005, p. 78). The Saltire 
Centre, opened in 2005, goes further than many of its LRC 
ancestors. There is greater emphasis given to the social role 
of informal learning through peer conversation, to self- 
orientated learning supported by sympathetic teachers 
based in the library, and in encouraging students to learn 
from each other by the provision of cafes and information 
points in the library. The building also acts as a beacon of 
new pedagogic practices on a typical inner city campus, in 
this case alongside Glasgow’s bus station. 

The entrance to the building is raised with the library 
front doors reached at the end of a ramp that climbs gently 
alongside a square which opens from the cafe on the 
ground floor. As a consequence, the library functions are 
separated somewhat from the registry and social ones, and 
this results in the library users having an attractive pano- 
rama over the double height cafe areas on arrival. From this 
elevated deck most of the library facilities can be viewed 
upwards through the generously proportioned atrium 
which rises through six storeys. The different levels — two 
social, two given over primarily to the book collection and 

Saltire Centre, Glasgow Caledonia University 

Architect Special features 

BDP • Integrates student facilities, registry, 

cafe and bookshop into library 

• Creates many informal learning spaces 

• Uses compact shelving to release 
space for inter-active learning 

• Large central atrium 


The university library 

two to IT provision (although there is a large measure of 
integration on each floor) — are connected by a graceful 
staircase which encircles the round lift tower placed 
centrally in the building. At each floor level, bridges span 
across to informal study or meeting areas; many of these 
are placed on platforms overlooking the atrium. Between 
the atrium and the learning zones there is a large six-storey 
media wall designed to take a range of graphic represen- 
tations from video projection to flying text using plasma 
screens. High-level routes also extend from the Saltire 
Centre to adjacent faculty buildings, making the campus 
permeable above ground. 

First impressions are that this is a new kind of university 
library — a hybrid of older types but with the addition of 
significant new ones. The Saltire Centre has books and 
research journals but many of these are housed in compact 
storage stacks which are operated by the students using 
electronic motors. Books that are primary source material 
for projects or lecture courses are on open shelves, face 
rather than spine out. They are available on short-term loan 
but much of the relevant text is available as photocopies 
presented in study packs. This material is taken to the cafe 
where the students use a laptop to write an essay or meet 
with fellow students undertaking group work. Paper and 
digital media are hence readily mixed in an atmosphere 
which is relaxing and a far cry from many university 

The building is transparent and colourful: glass is used 
widely to open up internal activities to external gaze. As 
such the building acts as a lighthouse of learning through 
the long Glasgow winter nights. With study spaces for over 
two thousand students in the building (about 20% of the 
university total) and many informal seating areas, the 
Saltire Centre is the hub of the campus — socially and 
academically. Mobile phone use is allowed in the bulk of 
the library, as is conversation; the cafe serves pastries and 
sandwiches as well as coffee, and there is much comfort- 
able furniture to encourage lounging. 

As architects, BDP has evolved a largely new solution to 
a new library type — one which is based upon ‘conversa- 
tional learning’ and the integration of library, IT and stu- 
dent services (welfare, housing, visas) as well as the shop 
window for registry. The latter provides information on 
grants, examination timetables, how to apply for late sub- 
mission and voluntary suspension, and many other things 
which students need to know but often have difficulty 
finding out. The library also provides access to external 
examiners’ reports, thereby keeping students informed of 
issues facing their education. 

The design approach incorporates three main elements. 
First, the external form of the building is eye-catching and 
colourful with large areas of glass making the building 
attractive and legible on arrival. Second, a great deal of 
effort has been devoted to the atrium in order to make the 
routes both vertically and horizontally inviting to use. 

These are more generously proportioned than one would 
expect, and detailed with the glass and chrome aesthetic of 
retail malls. Although the south facing atrium acts as an 
environmental buffer to the main learning accommodation 
( Synergy , 2005), its main role is rather more celebratory. 
Third, there has been a great deal of thought given to 
flexibility and ensuring that at each floor level as much 
natural light (including sunlight) penetrates the library as 

A key to the success of the design is the use of an atrium 
rising through the building: it provides high levels of 
daylight and allows the library user to see all that is going 
on. It contributes significantly to energy efficiency and 
provides a model of environmental design for other 
libraries to follow. The large atrium also means that stu- 
dents working on the various galleries can spot their friends 
and set up the informal learning networks essential to the 
ethos of learning at Glasgow Caledonia University. 

The building is graded from a noisy ground floor to 
a silent top floor, and from noisier group study areas closer 
to the atrium to private study desks in silent zones near the 
outer periphery. Undergraduate interactivity occurs nearer 
the ground with the research and masters study areas higher 
up. Book stacks, whether fixed or mobile, provide acoustic 
barriers around the atrium, but generally the emphasis is on 
the process of learning rather than the storage of study 
material. One of the main contributions the building makes 
is the way it expresses the educational philosophy of the 
university with an admirable lightness of touch. 

Magdeburg University Library, Germany 

University libraries have a long tradition of pushing at the 
frontiers of campus architecture. Their longevity and 
symbolic role has encouraged the type of innovation rarely 
found in faculty teaching buildings. Here at Magdeburg 
University, west of Berlin, architects Auer and Weber have 
fashioned a building which, like folded paper, encourages 
the juxtaposition of thought rather than its isolation. The 
building is conceived as a ‘continuous strip of concrete 
folded six times’ with each fold forming a new level for 
separate faculty libraries. In effect this is an amalgam of 

Magdeburg University Library 

Architect Special features 

Auer & Weber • Zig-zag plan aims to juxtapose 

• Central atrium acts as reading room 

• Exploits solar gain for heating and 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Plans, Magdeburg University Library. The ground floor is lower left, first floor upper left, second floor lower right and 
top floor upper right. (Auer and Weber/AR) 

semi-independent libraries placed within a single, spatially 
interconnected building (Brensing, 2004). 

The library zigzags in narrow sections, gradually rising 
to a height of four floors. A central atrium acts as a shared 
reading room overlooked by galleries and a cafe. Like 
much of the building the reading room is complex in both 
plan and section with angled wings of book stacks flying in 
different directions. The angles of stairs and lifts, which 
join the separate wings, open up views of the wider campus 
landscape. The effect is to see the ‘library as a landscape’ 
rather than as a conventional faculty building. 

In total there are six acute-angled wings each containing 
its own subject library with supporting study and IT spaces. 
Generally the book stacks are in the centre with carrels and 
group study tables around the perimeter. The internal 
transparency allows the reader to gain views of the whole 
library and to gain a sense that although the collection is in 
separate wings, the world of knowledge is rather more 
comprehensive and interconnected. 

The narrow plan depth and use of a glazed atrium allows 
the library to exploit the benefits of solar gain for both 
winter heating and stack effect summer ventilation. It also 

ensures that the building has high levels of daylight pen- 
etration — an important consideration when lighting can 
constitute the major area of energy use. The employment of 
prismatic technology in the atrium roof and on southern 
facades allows sunlight to be filtered out, allowing students 
to study in well-lit spaces without glare and reflections on 
computer screens (Brensing, 2004). In addition, the step- 
ping of the building provides solar shade whilst also 
sheltering the library entrance and adjacent campus routes. 

Portsmouth University Library 


Special Features 

Ahrends, Burton and 

• Library extension helped 

Koralek (1986) 

clarify campus routes 

Penoye and Prasad 

• Library acts as knowledge 


gateway to campus 

• Central street through library 

acts as ‘learning mail’ 


The university library 

Portsmouth University Library 

The latest extensions to Portsmouth University Library 
display the changing space needs of academic libraries. 
From its origins as a polytechnic library in the 1970s, 
through the extensions designed in 1986 by Ahrends, 
Burton and Koralek, to these recent additions by architects 
Penoyre and Prasad, it is possible to detect the way uni- 
versity libraries have had to adapt to changing academic 
priorities. The evolution of this university library follows 
a familiar pattern: a change from polytechnic to university 
status led to growing emphasis upon research; the aim of 
widening access to the university in the 1990s resulted in 
the addition of a cafe and extensive computer suites; 
and the early twenty-first century brought a fresh aware- 
ness of the role of libraries as image-makers on campus. 
Growth in student numbers from around 7,000 in the 1970s 
to 18,000 today also stressed the library and provided 
justification for the additions. 

As with many university projects, the configuration of 
the new library provided the opportunity to address per- 
ceived shortcomings in the campus masterplan (Pearce, 
2007). Here the extensions helped define the major routes 
between university facilities and form a gateway into the 
central campus. The library also established links to new 
seminar rooms and computer facilities which were also 

Interior, Portsmouth University Library. (Tim Crocker/ 
Penoyre and Prasad) 

Exterior at night, Portsmouth University Library. The 
entrance to the library is well lit and overlooked by 
other campus buildings, making it an attractive place 
to meet after lectures. (Tim Crocker/Penoyre and 

constructed to respond to changing academic practice at 
Portsmouth. Student-centred learning, part-time study and 
links to local professions and businesses meant that the 
new library had to be an open and inviting building. As 
such the emphasis is upon transparency and the creation of 
a central street to encourage informal learning and social- 
izing by students across the different academic disciplines. 

The original library maintains its position as the primary 
book repository. The extensions provide much needed 
reading room, group and small study spaces, plus in- 
dividual research workstations. Although there are addi- 
tional stack areas on upper floors, the extensions, built 
intriguingly at 45 degrees to the axis of the original 
building, has a knowledge use rather than knowledge 
storage function. The new street forms a connection be- 
tween the original building and its extensions. Here readers 
access the whole library, gain information from the various 
desks in the foyer, and gain a perception of what is on offer 
at the various levels. What was originally a rather deep plan 
and uninviting library has become a light-filled space ac- 
commodating the needs of both book and IT provision. 
Externally, a new square has been created which organizes 
the gathering of students to the various new facilities and, 
with the cafe and bookshop around its edge, provides an 
element of animation to what could have been a mere ex- 
ercise in space making. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

The new library now has a lofty reading room which is 
roof-lit and naturally ventilated. Unusually for academic 
libraries, advantage has been taken of the southern expo- 
sure to maximize the environmental benefits of its location. 
The orientation reduces the problem of low-angled east and 
west light on computer screens, and in the winter the solar 
gains are used to augment the heating load. Similarly the 
serrated profile of the extension provides semi-private 
study spaces around the edge which are light-filled but, due 
to their angle, suffer little from direct sunlight. 

The extensions help make sense of the campus as 
a whole and allow the university library to meet changing 
academic priorities. The values expressed through the 
design also mirror the imperatives of the age — noticeably 
in the area of low-energy architecture. By retaining the 
original buildings, the university was able to upgrade its 
library and learning resource facilities without undue dis- 
ruption to academic provision. Many other universities are 
facing similar demands to refurbish and extend their 
libraries. Portsmouth University provides a lesson in 
intelligent and sensitive upgrading of the main academic 
library to meet the learning aspirations of the twenty-first 

Library, Brandenburg Technical University 

Located at Cottbus in Germany, this academic library 
designed by Herzog and de Meuron forms a link between 
town and gown. Catering for both communities, the library 
is a curvaceous glazed structure, patterned with a silk- 
screen imprint, which reflects the sky by day and glows like 
a beacon in this former industrial heartland at night (Webb, 
2006). Like many recent buildings by Herzog and de 
Meuron, this library challenges the orthodoxy of university 
libraries. The architects argue that the organic free flowing 
shape was the result of a ‘purposeful configuration of many 
different flows of movement... and their ability to reor- 
ganise and restructure urban space’ (Webb, 2006). These 
different flows are those of the students accessing the li- 
brary collection between lectures as well as those moving 
around the campus, for the library helps smooth external 
pedestrian movements between faculty buildings by re- 
moving sharp angles. 

With all undulating plan-shaped buildings, the entrance 
is by no means obvious since the curved skin denies hier- 
archy. Here the problem has been overcome by providing 
two library entrances on opposite sides of the building. 
These link up to form a two-storey axial bisection of the 
amoeba-shaped plan, which in turn leads to a double height 
entrance hall. The hall provides essential information on 
the library services available and helps orientate readers 
through the building by the use of sculptural staircases and 
walls of bright colour. Above the entrance hall are six 
floors of book stacks interspersed with double and triple 

Brandenburg Technical University Library 


Special features 

Herzog and 
de Meuron 

• Large curved library 
with decorative surface tratment 

• Organic form to help 
erode subject boundaries 

• Library restructures campus 

• Variety of types of study space 

height reading rooms. Unlike the usual practice of 
arranging reading carrels around the edge of central book 
stacks or providing one large reading room, here Herzog 
and de Meuron slice the stack areas to form lofty voids for 
quiet study. These, and the more deliberately located pe- 
rimeter reading rooms, offer students a choice of type of 
study environment. 

The irregular plan and sectional cuts through floor plates 
produce a spatially complex library. The aim was to break 
the volumetric monotony of typical academic libraries and 
provide instead a building which was a pleasure to use. In 
this way the university hopes that the library will appeal not 
only to its students but to the wider community of Cottbus. 

Seikei University Library, Tokyo 

Seikei University Library in Tokyo, designed by the 
architect Shigeru Ban, follows the orthodox layout of 
a central atrium-cum-reading room surrounded by two 
wings of book stacks counterbalanced by glazed walls and 
open views on the cross-axis. Five storeys high, this aca- 
demic library sits above a further three storeys of basement 
storage. Readers enter into the library via wide steps which 
are centrally placed and lead to a large ‘chat zone’, which 
in turn takes the students into the library’s information 
floor. Here the students enter the first quiet zone, which 

Seiki University Library 


Special features 

Shigeru Ban 

• Central atrium acts as reading room 

• ‘Chat zone’ at entrance with cafe 

• galleries in atrium for group learning 

• quiet study pods suspended in atrium 



The university library 

Reading rooms 

Reading room 

Book - 



Plans and section, Brandenburg Technical University Library, Cottbus, Germany, designed by Herzog and de 
Meuron. (Herzog and de Meuron/AR) 

The university library 

permits talking but not mobile phone use and where 
guidance is provided to the collection. The entrance 
sequence takes the user up to an elevated first floor with the 
ground floor below reserved for study and social purposes 
not unlike that at the Saltire Centre in Glasgow. 

The five-storey high central atrium doubles up as a reading 
room where students are encouraged to interact between 
paper and digital media. This handsome volume contains 
galleries which overhang the space at each floor level, 
thereby providing a great deal of academic animation. The 
galleries are designed for group learning use and contrast 
with the private study pods which stand like elevated 
mushrooms within the atrium. Here silence is required 
(unlike the policy in much of the library) in an attempt to 
encourage more reflective learning. The pods form distinc- 
tive landmarks within the building and are joined by elevated 
bridges which add to the architectural drama. 

The two book-stack wings have closely spaced fixed 
shelving with a central spine for book and journal access. 
Each stack area has its own information point where the 
subject librarians guide students to the material. Around 
the edge of the stack area there is a ring of individual study 
carrels which provide views across the campus as well as 
back into the library. The proximity to the book collection 
means that the carrels are much in demand and their 
position at the perimeter gives life to the building. 

The layout provides an economical and flexible 
arrangement for an academic library. The large storage 
basement absorbs books, archives and research journals 
which are less in demand and gives the library a buffer 
zone for future growth. Here the material is stored in 
compact shelving where environmental conditions are 
more favourable than in the main library. 

Externally the library faces a square which provides 
pedestrian links to other faculty buildings. The square 
helps establish the centrality of the main library at Seikei, 
thereby signalling its importance to academic life. The 
square and atrium are axially aligned adding further sig- 
nificance to the reading room whilst also adding to the 
legibility of the library. 


Anon. (1995). Learning Curve. Architects Journal, 10 October, 
pp. 30, 34, 38. 

Arets, W. (2005) Living Library. Prestel, pp. 381—382. 

Benny, J. (1995). Designing for change. In Building Libraries for 
the Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). Proceedings of 
a symposium held in York, 11—12 April 1994. Institute of 
Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS). 

Blagden, J. (1995). Cranfield’s library of the future. In Building 
Libraries for the Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). Proceedings 

of a symposium held in York, 11—12 April 1994. Institute of 
Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS). 

Brawne, M. (1997). Cranfield Library. In Library Builders. 
Academy Editions, p. 67. 

Brensing, C. (2004). Unfolding knowledge. Architectural Review, 
February, pp. 62-66. 

Brindley, L. J. (1995). Introduction. In Building Libraries for the 
Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). Proceedings of a symposium 
held in York, 11—12 April 1994. Institute of Advanced 
Architectural Studies (IAAS). 

Cox, D. (1981). Rare books and special collections. Case study of 
the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. In University 
Librarianship (J. F. Stirling, ed.). Library Association. 

Croft, C. (2005). Literary connections. Architecture Today, Vol. 
163, pp. 56-64. 

Edwards, B. (1997). Homage to Aalto. Architects Journal, 27 
March, pp. 25—35. 

Edwards, B. (2003). Green Buildings Pay. E & F N Spon. See 
also: Learning Resource Centre, Anglia Polytechnic University, 
Building, 20 January 1995, pp. 39^16. 

Fresson, M. (1998). Switched on. Prospect, August, p. 40. 

Joint Funding Council (1993). Joint Funding Council’s Libraries 
Review Group: Report. Joint Funding Council. (Known as the 
Follett Report after its chairman, Sir Brian Follett.) 

Marmot, Alexi Associates (2005). Spaces for Learning. Scottish 
Funding Council, Edinburgh. 

Pearce, M. (2007). Penoyre and Prasad in Portsmouth. 
Architecture Today, April, pp. 28 — 41 . 

Revill, D. (1995). Liverpool John Moores University: The 
Aldham Robarts Learning Resource Centre. In Building 
Libraries for the Information Age (S. Taylor, ed.). Proceedings 
of a symposium held in York, 11—12 April 1994. Institute of 
Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS). 

Sunderland, A. (1995). Designing a better shoe box: the architects’ 
view. In Building Libraries for the Information Age (S. Taylor, 
ed.). Proceedings of a symposium held in York, 1 1—12 April 
1994. Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS). See 
also: Building Design, 18 February 1994, and The New Builder, 
18 February 1994. 

Sykes, P. (2007). Letter from Phil Sykes, University Librarian to 
Shepheard Epstein Hunter dated 20 August 2007 and made 
available to author. 

Synergy (2005). February, p. 8. 

Urquhart, J. A. (1981). Acquisitions and relegation: a case study 
of the University Library, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 
University Librarianship (J. F. Stirling, ed.). Library 
Association, p. 41. 

Van Cleef, C. (1999). Book bunker. Architectural Review, March, 
pp. 45, 47-48. 

Webb, M. (2006). Cottbus Kaleidoscope. Architectural Review, 
April, 2006 pp. 65—67. 

Wilson, A. (2008). Re-thinking Berlin’s academic libraries. 
Update, January/February. 

Wright, A. (1997). Architects Journal, 27 March, pp. 25 and 26 
(the quote is from the vice-chancellor, Anne Wright, of 
Sunderland University). 


This page intentionally left blank 


The specialist library 

This type of library is normally dedicated to a person, 
subject or place. Typical of the genre is the Reagan Li- 
brary, based upon US presidential papers, memoirs and 
personal artefacts. Typical also is the Ruskin Library where 
a collection of material by this famous Victorian artist, 
author and critic is housed as a self-contained annex to 
a university library. Like the Reagan Library, special col- 
lections normally contain a wide range of material — books, 
journals, newspaper cuttings, letters, drawings, photo- 
graphs and videos. They also frequently include personal 
furniture and household goods (coffee cups, telephones, 
television sets, etc.), which help to create a well-rounded 
view of the individual involved. Specialist libraries dedi- 
cated to individuals are necessarily personal and some- 
times idiosyncratic in nature. The challenge here is to 
design a library that captures the mood of the collection 
and which embraces the values of the person involved. 

Specialist libraries may be topic based. Here it is the 
subject material which is being housed and made available 
to scholars. Examples include poetry libraries, sports li- 
braries, photographic libraries and video libraries. The 
design of these buildings has to consider the special ac- 
commodation and conservation needs of the material. As 
with personal libraries, the collection contains more than 
paper-based material. Frequently there are artefacts which 
make up the collection, producing the blurring between 
library and museum use. With specialist libraries, security, 
conservation and access are part of a web of interconnected 
library tasks. In most specialist libraries, visits are made by 
appointment and the emphasis is more upon research than 
loan. Unlike in public or academic libraries where the bulk 
of material is held on open shelves, only a small percentage 
is visible in specialist libraries. Most is held in secure 
storage and much will be subject to periodic preservation, 
often involving sophisticated conservation measures. 

The third common type of specialist library is that built 
up by professional institutes. Here the material may go 
back to the founding of the body, making some of the 
books, journals and committee papers nearly 200 years old. 
The professional library was originally a private library for 
members, but increasingly the material is made available to 
the general public. Typical is the British Architectural 

Library at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). 
When the RIBA secured funding from the Heritage Fund 
Lottery in 1998, its considerable library became a quasi- 
public facility. Today the extensive collection of books, 
drawings, photographs and letters is available via ap- 
pointment, though none of the material is available for 
loan. Professional institute libraries are by no means 
small — the RIBA Library contains nearly a million items, 
that at the British Medical Association (BMA) over two 

The Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, by Malcolm 
Fraser Architects, is a place to reflect upon the written 
word. (Malcolm Fraser Architects) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 


Plan, Children’s Library, 
American Memorial 
Library, Berlin. Note the 
courtyard surrounded by 
tables for contemplation. 
(D Insall and Partners) 

million, and that at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) 
over a million. 

With all special libraries, conservation and security are 
paramount. Access is often made available only in con- 
trolled circumstances and readers are normally required to 
wear gloves, to use pencils only, and may be accompanied 
for the whole period of use. Closed circuit television 
(CCTV) is also commonly employed, especially in the 
most security sensitive areas. Library staff are also well 
versed in conservation techniques and, with the most rare 
material, may have modern copies available rather than 
risk damage to the original. 

Storage is often more complex in specialist libraries 
than in other types of library: drawings and prints require 
storage in secure, fireproof plan chests; photographs are 
normally stored in acid-free boxes; letters are frequently 
placed individually in plastic holders; and old committee 
papers, journals and newspaper cuttings all have their own 
special storage and conservation needs. For the architect 
there are implications for the level and method of venti- 
lation, the degree of natural light permitted, the potential 
exposure to fire, and the means necessary for speedy 
evacuation of material in the event of a hazard. With fires, 
the greater damage normally occurs as a result of water 
saturation and here both architect and librarian need to 

co-operate on the best security strategy in the event of fire, 
flood and sprinkler system operation. 

Specialist libraries come in two forms — they are either 
self-contained or they exist as annexes to larger libraries. 
Typical of the latter is the Afro-Caribbean Collection at 
Peckham Public Library, London and of the former, the 
Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. In both cases, there 
is a clear identity for the collection and, also in each, the 
design of the library reflects the character of the collection. 
In the Peckham Library, the collection is an ark which 
floats loftily within a double height public reading room. In 
the Edinburgh example, the building plan follows a figure 
of eight pattern, returning to the starting point via recurring 
themes in the fashion of a poem. 

Specialist libraries are often under the control of a trust 
rather than a public body. Such trusts, normally charitable 
in nature and instigated to provide a legal basis for the 
development of the collection, grow from local enthusiasm 
or the gift, perhaps at death, of exceptional library material. 
Trusts do not always have the expertise to undertake 
building development and the task of the appointed ar- 
chitect is often to advise on possible sources of grant aid, to 
choose an appropriate site or location for the collection, 
and to offer advice not only on building design but also on 
the best measures to be adopted for storage, security and 


The specialist library 

Surrey History Centre 
Library, Woking, 
designed by W S Atkins. 
(W S Atkins) 

conservation. Specialist libraries often require specialist 
advice from professional advisors; their complexity can 
exceed that of other libraries though frequently the col- 
lection is smaller in scale. 

Another specialist library is the Surrey History Centre in 
Woking designed by W S Atkins. It provides an archive 
and local study collection — parts of which date back to the 
twelfth century — in a new building constructed in 1998 

with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The 
building cost over £6.4 million and attracts 4,500 visitors 
a year to a history archive noted for its emphasis upon 
working and social conditions. The library is divided into 
three parts — public reading rooms, archival storage and 
conservation areas. The special nature of the collection led 
to the early involvement of the Library Furnishing Com- 
pany (LFC) in the design process. Here the expertise of 

Special collections often 
require special shelving 
systems. This example 
shows the library at the 
Shakespeare Institute, 
developed with the 
Library Furnishing 
Company. (LFC) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

LFC aided the multidisciplinary team of W S Atkins with 
the result that the sophisticated storage and security sys- 
tems do not conflict with the architectural ambitions else- 
where. The History Centre uses northern light, thereby 
avoiding shadows and damaging sunlight and, in the 
search-room and archive area, glass-fronted shelving is 
employed for security and ultraviolet light screening 

Two further specialist libraries should be mentioned: the 
Shackleton Library in Cambridge and the Fawcett Library 
in London. The first consists of an extension to the Scott 
Polar Research Institute Library and contains photographs, 
lantemslides, maps, diaries and letters representing the 
work of the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. The design by 
John Miller and Partners evokes a feeling of ice by 
employing extensive areas of glass and white walls. The 
second library of note is the National Library of Women 
(formerly the Fawcett Library), where an extensive study 
collection, exhibition space, cafe and shop exist thanks to 
funding from English Partnerships, the Heritage Lottery 
Fund and the Higher Education Funding Council. As with 
other specialist libraries, the facilities are wide-ranging and 
many sources of finance have been tapped to bring the li- 
braries to fruition. 

Presidential libraries 

Presidential libraries are a group of specialist libraries 
which share the honour of recording in print the lives of 
former US presidents. They are endowed and mainly 
funded by deceased presidents often in association with 
American universities and hence are found predominantly 
on academic campuses. Presidential libraries are princi- 
pally archive collections and consist of a diverse range of 
material from books to congressional papers, personal files, 
photographs, films, letters and artefacts. Though housed in 
the main on university campuses, they tend to be managed 
by the National Archives and Records Administration. 
Since presidential libraries carry a great deal of genuine or 
perceived prestige, they tend to be architecturally distinc- 
tive buildings. Typical examples are the George Bush 
Senior Library at Texas A and M University, the Ronald 
Reagan Library in California, the Jimmy Carter Library in 
Atlanta, the Richard Nixon Library in Maryland and the 
William J Clinton Library at Little Rock, Arkansas (Sudjic, 

In many ways presidential libraries share some of the 
characteristics of museums. Reagan’s Library, for instance, 
also contains his personal telephone, the typewriter used to 
send messages to aids, and even his car. However, in spite 
of the glamorizing of presidents these libraries contain 
a great deal of valuable archival material and attract 
a number of serious academic scholars. As such they need 
to perform as libraries with attention given to the storage, 
conservation and safe use of the study material. 

One characteristic of this type of library is the copious 
use of architectural symbolism. For example, the George 
Bush Library is circular in shape recalling Jefferson’s ro- 
tunda library at the University of Virginia. Similarly, 
Lyndon Johnson’s Library has an oval office where his 
most valuable papers are stored. Although presidential li- 
braries display the changing tastes of the American polit- 
ical class they are particular to the person honoured and are 
one of the defining legacies of the political culture of the 
USA. Whereas UK prime ministers leave little more than 
collections of letters and manuscript memoirs to already 
established libraries, ex presidents mark their place in 
history in the architecture of libraries. Umberto Eco is 
rather scathing of the type: he refers to the Lyndon Johnson 
Library as a ‘fortress of solitude’ where genuine texts are 
mixed with fake reconstructions, making the library rather 
more a wax museum than a genuine archive (Eco, 1987). 
The fashion is spreading to adjacent countries with the 
opening in 2008 of the Fox Centre — the presidential library 
of Mexico’s President Vincent Fox at Guanajuata. This 
example, designed with its study carrels to serve the needs 
of academic researchers, is modelled on the Clinton 

The Ruskin Library at Lancaster University, 

The library was designed to accommodate the Ruskin 
collection of papers and artefacts, geological specimens, 
pictures (unmounted as well as framed), sketches and early 
slides. It makes, therefore, an interesting specialist library 
and one which is both library and museum. It is not pos- 
sible to ignore the elliptical building, with its incised two- 
storey window, used as a metaphor for Ruskin’ s life and 
ideas. The external cladding of white concrete blocks with 
marble aggregate and green polished bands blends with the 
surrounding buildings of the campus. One significant fea- 
ture are the entrance doors constructed of bronze-clad al- 
uminium. These are a solid reminder of the arts and crafts 
period in which Ruskin was writing and echo the tradi- 
tional craftsmanship found throughout the building. 

The entrance floor is made of glass and slate. The ma- 
terials used throughout the building are natural and reflect 
Ruskin’ s interest in construction. Internal finishes on the 
rendered walls are either natural ochre limewash or fin- 
ished with black pigment sealed with linseed. Roof timbers 
are grit-blasted to expose the grain. The device of inserting 
an ark-like construction in the centre of the building is 
extraordinary in library architecture — it rises to the full 
height of the building. The ark is held within an oak frame, 
its side walls rendered in red Venetian plaster. It is viewed 
from the foyer through a glass-etched panel containing 
a copy of one of Ruskin’ s own daguerreotypes. 

There are two staircases, one on each side of the 
building, each accessing the upper gallery floors. The 


The specialist library 

Plan, Ruskin Library, Lancaster University, designed 
by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard. (MacCormac 
Jamieson Prichard) 

meeting room lies between them and above the storage 
areas. It opens onto the glass walkway, which is also etched 
with the names of benefactors to this project. Observers can 
look down onto the reading room from the western end of 
each gallery and from there the view extends towards 
Morecambe Bay. 

Storage areas, office space, a reception area, workroom, 
meeting room and a gallery have been accommodated 
within this deceptively small building. The equipment to 
view the non-print material and the library catalogue all 
has specific power and data requirements. Plans to dis- 
seminate information about the collection are ambitious 
and exploit the potential of the IT age. 

The staffing includes a curator who is a nineteenth 
century art historian and a librarian. This fits the mixture of 
conservation/preservation activities associated with a spe- 
cialist library collection, as well as the information storage 
and retrieval for scholarly purposes necessary to fulfil the 

aim of the project. There is dependence upon the facilities 
and staff of the University Library, housed in an adjacent 
building. Staff offices have curved footprints and are found 
on the outer perimeter of the ground floor; workshop space 
is provided adjacent to the loading bay which is covered 
and located at basement level. 

Once within the Ruskin Library, each artefact is subject to 
some movement as it undergoes conservation, cataloguing, 
scholarly investigation or display in addition to storage. This 
internal mobility is achieved by the use of a book lift, in 
conjunction with specially designed trolleys and by the in- 
ternal spiral staircase with half landings. The large storage 
requirements of this wide-ranging collection bring about 
specific solutions. This is a common feature of specialist 
library collections, which by their nature are dynamic or- 
ganic growing entities. The library contains small reading 
rooms and staff work areas for specific projects. One ex- 
ample is the room used to create the database of press and 
media cuttings about Ruskin. The main book archive is kept 
on Rackline rolling stacks on three floors. This and the two 
picture stores are not accessible by the users. Readers are 
expected to adhere to the regulations common to many 
specialist collections and archives. These include the use of 
cotton gloves for handling original manuscripts, the use of 
pencil only in the main reading room and archive area, and 
closed access to the artefacts with staff facilitation of objects. 

The internal decoration and furnishing have been designed 
to achieve a high degree of harmony with the subject. This 
attention to detailed planning ensures that the Ruskin Library 
is entirely suited to its purpose as a scholarly resource. The 
study area is a reading room of about 70 m 2 . It will seat up to 
eight readers. A specialist examination table for drawings or 
large folios has been provided. The catalogue is available 
through a computer terminal located on the desk of the 
reading room supervisor. All furniture is sympathetic with 
the collection, having been specially commissioned and ex- 
ecuted. It also includes some original pieces from Ruskin’ s 
own collection. Bookcases have been built in the reading 
rooms and specially designed display cabinets for prints and 
artefacts are found in the gallery areas. 

The building has a passive airflow system with venti- 
lation through the floor. This solution allows the housing of 
collections needing differing environmental controls. The 
only direct air-conditioning is within the gallery and 

Ruskin Library, University of Lancaster, UK 


Special features 


MacCormac Jamieson Prichard 

Library and museum combined 

Embodies Ruskin’s ideas in design of building. 

Linked to university library. 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Sections, Ruskin Library, Lancaster University, designed by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard. (MacCormac 
Jamieson Prichard) 

reading room areas. One disadvantage of the floor venti- 
lation system is the transmission of the noise from the book 
trolleys vibrating on the wire mesh floor of the bookstore 
areas to other parts of the library. 

The Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, 

The Scottish Poetry Library in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old 
Town is a small specialist lending library devoted to poetry. 
The collection of about 36,000 volumes is divided between 
two-thirds reference and one-third lending. Though modern 
in spirit, the building is rich in historic reference— both to its 
surroundings and to the traditions of Scottish poetry. As 
a library, it is conceived on a figure of eight plan with stairs 
and lift providing the crossover points between a larger 
double height reading room and smaller specialized library 
spaces (Bevan, 1999). This configuration allows the interior 

Ruskin Library, Lancaster University, from the ramp 
linking the building to the main campus library. (Peter 

space to flow yet be always connected— perhaps evoking the 
nature of poetry itself. 

The Scottish Poetry Library designed by the Edinburgh 
practice Malcolm Fraser Architects was shortlisted in 2000 
for the Stirling Prize, Britain’s premier architecture award. 
For such a small building, it captures the spirit of 
Tibraryness’ in the handling of external entrance and re- 
lated facade, and in the interior procession. The approach 
to the building is via Crighton’s Close, a linear courtyard 
placed at right angles to historic Canongate. Necessarily 
the new building is placed parallel to the Close but is set 
back slightly from the building line to form a room at the 
library entrance. Within this space sits a small external 
amphitheatre whose projection into the courtyard signals 
the presence of a public not private building. Details 
around the threshold further reinforce the message of a li- 
brary — there are inscriptions such as ‘By leaves we live’ 
from Patrick Geddes, with carved oak leaves in the stone 
paving adjoining the door. Inside further quotations are set 
into walls and glass panels or hang as tapestries. One such 
quotation, ‘This house, this poem, this fresh hypothesis’ 
from Iain Crighton Smith, is etched in a glass screen run- 
ning practically the length of the building. 

The interpenetration of interior and exterior space 
allows the activities of the library to influence the outside 
world. One can stand in the Close and watch the process of 
reading, lending, searching and reflection take place 
without interrupting the world inside. Being transparent at 
the edge and well lit inside, the feeling is almost one of 
a sophisticated city street cafe. Although the interior is 
tranquil, at times poetic in the play of space, light and 
materials, the ambience is never precious or exclusive. 
Instead there is an inviting air which, via the books on 
display, draws the visitor inside. 

The building is two storeys in height and four structural 
bays in length. This is a framed library where the elements 
of construction — steel frame, glazed panels, oak screens, 
blue-glazed brick walls — are all articulated and separately 
expressed. Again one seeks a metaphor in poetry where the 


The specialist library 

Scottish Poetry Library, 
Edinburgh, from Cright- 
on’s Close. (Malcolm 
Fraser Architects) 

Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, Scotland 

Architect Special features Cost 

Malcolm Fraser Architects Lottery-funded national poetry library £1 160/m 2 

Specialized library for deposit, reference and lending 
Design inspired by poetry and historic context 
Employs modern constructivist aesthetic language. 

Katharine Stephen Rare Books Library, Cambridge, UK 


Special features 


Van Heyningen and Haward 

Protective library for rare books 

Heavyweight building construction to moderate 
temperature and humidity variation 

Use of open metal shelving to encourage air movement 
around delicate leather-bound books 

Strict dust, humidity and temperature control 

Strict fire security. 

£1 ,895/m 2 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Science Library, University of California, Irvine, USA 

Architect Special features Cost 

James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Partners Rotunda to act as subject integration Not available 

Wings to facilitate links to research and teaching facilities 
Study carrels around centre and perimeter 
Landmark building around central park 
Study collection and teaching spaces in wings. 

Common types of specialist library 



Government bodies 

Including legislative or special sections (Civil Service) 

Major industrial headquarters 

Central and branch 

Commercial and industrial firms 

Large manufacturers, small legal firms or GP surgery 

Learned institutions and research associations 

Providing a service to members as well as a source of 
specialist knowledge and an obligation to support 
research and scholarship. 

Adapted from Thompson (1989). 

lines of construction, down to the smallest part, inform the 
whole. The resulting staccato modernity reminds the visitor 
that there are still fresh shoots of creativity in a literary 

The design is inevitably fashioned by the nature of the 
collection it houses and the physical context in which it is 
built. This is a library where the container and the 
contained seek a dialogue. It is also a library which seeks 
sustenance from the historic fragments surrounding the 
site. Immediately to the east stands the Old City Wall of 
Edinburgh, to the north historic tenements lining the Royal 
Mile, and to the south there are long views between nine- 
teenth century warehouses to Salisbury Crags. It is a land- 
scape as rich in history as any in Northern Europe and it is 
this landscape which has not only inspired the poets whose 
work is housed here but the design of the library itself. 

Light is a recurring theme of the design. The visitor is 
guided through the building via natural light. Fraser sees the 
library as a glade in woodland with light filtering through 
clearings in the forest canopy (Bevan, 1999). Domes of roof 
light punctuate the route through the library, bringing day- 
light into the centre of the building. The ceiling is tilted so 
that clerestory light defines the library perimeter, giving 
a sense that the forest has an edge as well as clearings. The 

metaphor is carried further in the use of oak construction, 
dark green tapestries and a pale green paint finish to plaster 
surfaces. Underfoot there are woven wool carpets of leaves 
and grasses reminding the reader that nature and landscape 
have been the dominant sources of Scottish poetry. 

The main lending library is positioned on the ground 
floor with carrels around the edge. The upper mezzanine 
floor houses open reading areas, a children’s library and 
a members’ room. Readers are encouraged by the presence 
of an open central staircase to carry their books upstairs to 
the reading area where carpets, easy chairs and low tables 
are located. The practice is akin to that of monks in the 
monastery who, having retrieved their books from dark 
secure rooms, took them into sunny cloisters and gardens to 
read. The upper floor reading area of the Scottish Poetry 
Library is generously glazed facing west (and hence filled 
with afternoon sunlight) and looks directly onto Crighton’s 
Close at its widest point. The arrangement gives expression 
to the process of selecting and reading a book of poems, 
and gives life to the outside courtyard where a high-level 
balcony overlooks the space. 

The building confirms that even small libraries are im- 
portant cultural magnets. In awarding the Scottish National 
Library a Civic Trust Award in 2000, the citation said: 


The specialist library 

Section, Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects. (Malcolm Fraser Architects) 

like a short poem, this building delights and inspires, and 
demonstrates that small buildings can have a positive impact 
far greater than their modest scale suggests (SPL, 2000). 

Katharine Stephen Rare Books Library, 
Newnhan College, Cambridge, UK 

The Katharine Stephen Library was established in 1995 as 
a special library to house the rare books held by Newnham 
College. The building, designed by Van Heyningen and 

Haward, creates ideal conditions for the storage, conserva- 
tion and use of rare and fragile books. Previously stored on 
open shelves or in cardboard boxes, the new building creates 
a safe environment for the collection by paying particular 
attention to fire security and the environmental conditions of 
humidity and temperature. As with many such libraries, the 
value of the collection exceeds the value of the building 
(Anon., 1997) though the building is by no means cheap by 
library standards (nearly £2, 000/m 2 in 1995). 

The library is a long roof-lit rectangle of double height 
with an access balcony constructed around the perimeter of 

Plan and section, Katharine Stephen Rare Books Library, Newnham College, Cambridge University. (Van 
Heyningen and Haward) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

the central space. A straight staircase on the axis of a long 
spinal roof light provides access to the gallery and termi- 
nates in a small space marked by a square window. The 
rare books, many of irregular size, are housed on metal 
shelves set slightly forward of the walls to allow air to flow 
freely around the leather bindings. Open metal shelves set 
within a traditionally brick-built library provide the means 
to monitor the condition of the books whilst creating 
a relatively stable library environment. For security rea- 
sons, some of the most valuable material is kept in open- 
locked metal bookcases. 

The Katharine Stephen Library is more a secure store 
than a study library. Although reading desks are provided 
in the centre of the building, this is primarily a repository 
rather than a working library. Scholars are required to 
make an appointment in advance and can only handle the 
scarce books under controlled conditions. For security 
reasons, there is only one entrance into the building and 
this is via an octagonal vestibule with a security camera. 
The vestibule skilfully handles the change in axis from the 
adjoining college and, like the library, is marked by a roof 
light — in this case circular. 

Architecturally, the new building borrows construction 
details and stylistic motifs from adjacent buildings. From 
these it derives the language of colour-banded brickwork, 
vaulted ceilings and an underlying classical symmetry. 
Within this repertoire, a modern interpretation of college 
library architecture is provided for a rare and valuable 
collection of books and manuscripts. 

Science Library, University of California, 
Irvine, California, USA 

This library in Irvine provides a specialist science collec- 
tion for students at a high-tech university. It is one of six 
faculty libraries arranged around a circular park at the heart 
of the campus. The library itself consists of a large rotunda 
space in the centre, surrounded by study carrels, and 
a series of subject wings placed either tangentially or 
perpendicularly. Students are encouraged to retrieve their 
books or science journals from the wings and bring them 
into the centre for use. 

There are obvious precedents for this design by James 
Stirling of Michael Wilford & Associates. One is James 
Smirke’s Reading Room at the British Museum, another is 
the circular library by James Gibbs in Oxford, the third 
and geographically more appropriate is Thomas Jeffer- 
son’s Library at the University of Virginia. What these 
libraries have in common, and which the Science Library 
at Irvine also exploits, is the sense that a library is a kind 
of collective consciousness. The knowledge banks are 
held in wings with the reader bringing the material to- 
gether physically in the centre and psychologically in his 
or her mind. The plan gives architectural structure to this 

notion, affording the building the dysfunction of being 
also a campus landmark by virtue of the way its spatial 
clarity is expressed three-dimensionally. This is a plastic, 
dynamic design, which seeks to integrate the sciences 
around the notion of rational space. In the process, it 
expresses the unification of the sciences, especially the 
role of the reading room in providing a shared in- 
terdisciplinary study area for students engaged in their 
own subject specialisms. The wings contain specific 
subject material, but the central rotunda is the ‘mind’ 
where it is integrated. 

The Science Library is linked to a bioscience research 
laboratory which acts as a bridge between itself and the 
medical school. The use of radiating wings allows the 
linkage to be achieved smoothly. Students and researchers 
pass through a sequence of well-engineered spaces, edged 
by study material and linked by a pattern of corridors and 
larger sunlit-filled spaces. It is a passage through ideas as 
well as through space, with the student journey culminated 
by the terminus of the central rotunda. This rotunda or 
drum extends through four floors and is split to expose 
views outwards over the campus. The axis produced aids 
orientation whilst giving definition to the different subject 
collections (chemistry, biology, physics, bioscience, etc.). 
As each subject library leads also to teaching or research 
areas, the wings act as gateways to subject classifications. 

The plan of the Science Library has as a central premise 
the idea that all the sciences are unified by certain princi- 
ples. The rotunda is the point of meeting and exchange; it is 

Main activities in specialist libraries 

User-based activities (registration, records management, 
security check) 

Staff areas (workroom, public areas, rest areas and 
personal facility areas) 

Audiovisual materials, acquisition, processing, recording, 

On-line services, organization and provision 

Book acquisition, cataloguing, processing and lending 

Journal acquisition, cataloguing, processing and 

Interlibrary loans 

Searches by database, on-line CD-ROM or Internet 

Catalogue production 



Enquiry and research function 



Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

where subject interface is encouraged by contact with 
space, light and external views. The sense of inside and 
outside is deliberately blurred to allow the mind to wander 
and to explore complex knowledge from a variety of 
angles. In this the building aids rather than impedes the 
imagination. As a 24-hour library, it also acts as a beacon 
of learning and investigation all through the day. 

Archive Library, Jersey 

The archive library designed for the Jersey Heritage Trust 
by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard in collaboration with 
BDK Architects is typical of small independent commu- 
nity-based libraries. The aim was to preserve the island of 
Jersey’s heritage of manuscripts and early photographs in 
a building which is attractive to use but also offers the latest 
facilities in conservation. The building consists of three 
main elements — a reading room, a suite of specialist study 
and conservation spaces, and a repository for the collec- 
tion. These elements are arranged in a composition of 
right-angled wings anchored around the large four-storey 
repository. In the latter are the 7 km of shelving needed to 
house the archive. 

Jersey is an island where war has been a recurring theme 
of its history. As a result much of the collection is devoted 
to military history, particularly the French invasion of 1781 
and the German occupation of the island during the Second 
World War. Perhaps symbolic of this was the decision to 
locate the library beneath the cliffs of a quarry whose 
rugged and fractured rock faces counter the smooth lines of 
the building. The library has an inviting entrance and 
landscaped forecourt where curved seats are arranged ca- 
sually to encourage passers-by to relax before exploring the 
building. The entrance itself is surprisingly large and 
doubles as an exhibition area. It leads via a staircase to 
a first floor gallery and archive information point. Here the 

Specialist professional libraries 

Governmental departments 
Governmental organizations 
Voluntary agencies 

Professional trade and learned societies 
Legal organizations 
Commercial organizations 
Pharmaceutical companies 
Management and information consultants 

Adapted from Library and Information Statistics Unit, 
Loughborough University. 

researcher can begin to access the material along a corridor 
that leads to the right to the reading room and to the left to 
a suite of offices which provide an increasing level of se- 
curity. Only staff can access the repository held at right 
angles in the nearly windowless white tower. 

The double-storey entrance provides an inviting first 
point of contact with the building. The reading room is the 
other space designed to evoke reflection on the material at 
hand. It is cantilevered out to afford solar protection to the 
rooms below and has a large south facing window and 
clerestory lighting which is filtered through daylight 
shelves. The diffused sunlight of the reading room strikes 
the green panelling of the walls providing a reminder of the 
landscape outdoors. This is an archive library where cul- 
tural memory and landscape play an important part in 
island life. 

The theme of landscape finds its way into the selection 
of materials both inside and outside the building as it does 
at the Ruskin Library designed by the same architects. The 
horizontal timber cladding set on a stone base allows for 
a play of colours and textures which relate directly to the 
island context. Added to this, the use of natural materials 
and exploitation of solar gains, cross-ventilation and ther- 
mal mass allows the building to absorb peaks in tempera- 
ture and humidity without resorting to air-conditioning 
(Prichard, 2007). As such the Jersey Archive Library 
(shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2001) provides a model 
for other specialist library buildings. 

Women’s Library, Whitechapel, London 

This specialist library and archive remodelled from an 
existing building by architects Wright and Wright includes 
a museum, conference centre and extensive study spaces 
for London Guildhall University. It provides for conven- 
tional scholarship and cultural research in the area of 
women’s studies whilst also acting as a catalyst for the 
wider regeneration of this part of East London. The col- 
lection, which extends back to the sixteenth century, is of 
international importance and centres on the social and 
political history of women. The library has an important 
conservation and archival role whilst also acting as a li- 
brary for the use of students and the general public. 

The Women’s Library occupies part of a former Vic- 
torian public baths (built in 1 846) which is now engulfed 
by extensions that step from three to six storeys in height. 
Surrounded by public housing and other university build- 
ings, the library faces the street with its own leafy court- 
yard to the rear. The entrance to the library is taken through 
the former baths on Old Castle Street via a new opening cut 
into the mellow brick walls. Inside there is a long double 
height entrance hall with an information desk and cafe on 
the first floor. From here space flows through to the lofty 
brick-lined exhibition area and seminar room beyond. 
Sandwiched between the entrance hall and exhibition area 


The specialist library 

Plan and exploded 
perspective, Jersey 
Archive Library. 
Jamieson Prichard/ 

a staircase leads up through the building to the various 
study collections on the upper floors. The archive is located 
in the basement for security and conservation of the valu- 
able and fragile artefacts, and on the third floor for less 
precious parts of the collection. In both areas the 

environment is carefully controlled to prevent damage 
from fluctuating temperature and humidity. 

There is a Louis Kahn-like quality to many of the library 
spaces (Slessor, 2002). The use of large areas of exposed 
red brickwork, segmental arched ceilings and a discipline 
of served and servant spaces suggest a debt to Kahn’s 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Perspective sketch, 
Women’s Library, 
Whitechapel, London. 
(Wright and Wright/AR) 

library at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. The 
plan and section are both highly articulated and help with 
communicating the rationale behind the collection and the 
routes through the building. The Women’s Library is 

a densely occupied and compact building where architec- 
ture and light (often from above) are used to guide the 
reader to the different facilities available. The use of nat- 
ural light and passive ventilation reduces the energy 

Archive Library, Jersey 

Architect Special features 

MacCormac Jamieson 
Prichard with BDK 

• Large manuscript 

• Extensive conservation 

• Building responds to 
quarry site 

• Shortlisted for Stirling 
Prize, 2001 

Women’s Library, London 


Special features 

Wright and Wright 

• Includes museum and confer- 
ence centre 

• Linked to London Guildhall 

• Catalyst for wider social and 
economic regeneration 

• Conversion of Victorian baths 


The specialist library 

footprint of the building whilst adding considerably to the 
pleasure of using the collection. 


Anon. (1997). Library Builders. Academy Editions, p. 89. 

Bevan, R. (1999). Slim volume. Building Design, 4 June, p. 14. 
Eco, U. (1987). Travels in Hyper -reality. Picador, pp. 6—7. 

Prichard, D. (2007). Personal communication with author, 26 June 

Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) (2000). Newsletter , July, p. 12. 
Slessor, C. (2002). Making History. Architectural Review, 
January, pp. 50-57. 

Sudjic, D. (2006). The Edifice Complex. Penguin Books, 
pp. 224—254. 

Thompson, G. (1989). The Planning and Design of Library 
Buildings. Butterworth Architecture. 


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Part 5 


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The future of the library 

Why libraries matter 

It has been suggested that with electronic media the library 
as a special place will disappear (Davey, 1998). As society 
adopts digital technologies, the storage of paper (and 
within it books) will become redundant with the exception 
of special collections. This is an argument which fails to 
acknowledge the role of the library as symbolic domain — 
a place for the public to meet, a refuge away from the 
commercialization of cities. Even with the growth of 
computers, the book continues to enjoy great popularity. 
With books you need storage and reading space, and this is 
fundamentally what a library provides. Yet beyond func- 
tion, the library serves to signal the value of the written 
word, of learning (as against knowledge) and the impor- 
tance in this compact to the reader. The reader requires 
space as much as the books, and it is the dialogue between 
the reading room and the storage of the written or elec- 
tronic material which makes a good library. Such space is 
both interior and exterior, and functional and spiritual. It is 
the way libraries are redefining civic architecture that 
makes the building type so interesting today. 

More books are printed today than at any time in history. 
More reading, learning and research are undertaken today 
than in any previous age. Even with our current computing 
sophistication, few books are held in their entirety in 
electronic formats. Books may become obsolete more 
quickly than updateable electronic formats, but they still 
retain value as a source of wisdom, intellectual stimulation 
or theoretical discourse. A book can contain knowledge, 
but information becomes out-of-date more rapidly than 
theory. The pattern emerges, therefore, whereby both book 
and IT systems are needed: the modem library has to ac- 
commodate both on an equal footing. 

The library provides space for the reader, the book and 
the means of accessing electronic data. All three require 
attention and in certain civic or academic libraries, the 
reader can be both a casual browser and a serious scholar. 
A classification begins to emerge between type of library 
(national, deposit, civic, academic, private), between type 
of information (book, journal, graphic, special collection, 
photographic) and type of reader (casual, researcher, stu- 
dent, child). All require their own ideal conditions, yet 

a successful library is one which unites rather than divides 
its users, and one which integrates its systems and material. 
Security poses a threat to openness, noise (especially 
computer noise) limits the degree of shared accommoda- 
tion, and the needs of the researcher are quite distinct from 
those of the everyday library user. 

A good library is one which is alive with activity. 
Successful libraries are living dynamic buildings which 
provide interaction between books and readers, and be- 
tween the public life and private imagination. They are 
market places in which people shop for knowledge or en- 
tertainment — searching both traditional and electronic 
material for their needs. Living libraries are open and in- 
clusive, the democracy of space signalling freedom of 
public access. Being a living and dynamic system, libraries 
need to be able to change and to grow. 

Change is needed to reflect the evolving technologies of 
information storage and retrieval. Modem IT and earlier 
systems of microfilm or microfiche all challenge the use 
and politics of space. Even traditional printed material, 
which has been readily available for three centuries, con- 
tinues to grow in volume, although the sizes of books are 
falling. Added to this, the library is increasingly expected 
to house back copies of newspapers, to have a deposit of 
old photographs and plans and, in some libraries, to hold 
special collections of local or regional interest. Some li- 
braries (such as national deposit libraries) necessarily have 
ever-expanding storage needs, whilst others (such as aca- 
demic libraries) may find themselves in receipt of a major 
research archive. Libraries, like cities, need to be able to 
grow outwardly and renew themselves inwardly. Since li- 
braries are particularly long-lived buildings, the initial size 
may only be 40% of the final dimensions. 

New media impose fresh storage or display needs upon 
an existing library. The demands of electronic media are 
quite different in terms of environment compared to tradi- 
tional paper systems. New technologies alter the use of 
space, the expectations of readers and the engineering of the 
library. Growth in the size of the collection can be accom- 
modated by splitting storage of rarely used material from 
the popular collection — often using separate buildings. But 
electronic data is ubiquitous: it cannot be shelved else- 
where. For the modern library there is no alternative to 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

\JT>& ms 

; □ 





A clear arrangement of book storage in the centre and reading space at the periphery characterizes a well-designed 
library: (a) Green Library, Stanford University; (b) Library, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham. (Brian 

comprehensive recabling, giving book space over to com- 
puters, and putting electronic screens on every reader table. 
The flickering computer screen — though it can jar the 
serenity of the well-mannered library — is an essential tool 
for reader, researcher, casual delver and staff member alike. 

The library as a building type: the importance 
of words and forms 

To most people, the word ‘library’ evokes a mental picture 
of a particular type of building. The picture is both an 
external image and an internal one. The form of the library 
upon which personal and public perception is based draws 
upon four interconnecting mental constructs. There is the 
geometry of space, the grasp of mass and surface, and the 
effects of light, colour and other optical phenomena and, 
most importantly, the presence of people (paraphrased 
from Markus, 1993, p. 11). These together, plus the over- 
riding presence of books, allow function (or what librarians 

call ‘operational requirements’) to generate distinctive 
plans and arrangement. It is the four acting together which 
carry connotations of ‘meaning’. Such meaning is 
expressed in the architecture of the building, the meeting of 
function and the celebration of the civic realm. 

To a typical library user, the building has a recognizable 
plan and image which are rich in cultural meaning. Those 
who design libraries have a responsibility to convey 
Tibraryness’ through the manipulation of form, space and 
light. A library fails in its social discourse if, no matter how 
functionally efficient, it does not evoke library character. 
To be successful, the library should be according to Frankl 
(cited in Markus, 1993) a ‘complete, closed, self-sufficient 
unit’ as opposed to an ‘incomplete fragment’. Only mature 
building types (museums, railway stations) have this 
wholeness of form and harmony of meaning/function re- 
lationship. Out of this compact comes the idea that forms 
are both containers for function and metaphors for mean- 
ing. The library is, therefore, a type of building whose 
image is already well established in the collective mind of 


The future of the library 

A library which gives 
equal weight to book 
and IT information 
systems. Free Univer- 
sity Library Berlin. (Nigel 
Young Foster and 

society. The mental picture of Tibraryness’ is in this sense 
a sign — a particular type of shape and volume which sig- 
nals a particular function. Society reads the built sign and 
receives the meaning codes. 

The difficulty for architects today is how to communi- 
cate the presence of the library when IT has eroded the 
principal element upon which the library as a building type 
is based — namely the book. By changing the nature of the 
library and the specific functional demands of its elements, 
computing has undermined the fundamentals upon which 
the social codes are based. Form, space and light — the key 
elements which allow the mental picture of a library to be 
constructed — have vastly different qualities depending 
upon the type of material in the library. An electronic 

library has neutral space, the book-based library informed 
space. Eco has developed an argument which relates 
language in a linguistic sense to architecture (Markus, 
1993, pp. 37—38). He proposes a direct link between words 
and the consequences in architectural design for con- 
struction or use. This allows the architect to differentiate 
between types of libraries, giving each their own identity. 
For example, a traditional library will raise different 
expectations of built form from a learning resource centre. 
Each in their way is a library but the function/meaning 
metaphors will vary and, as a consequence, so will their 
exterior shape and interior volumes. 

IT has not only revolutionized commerce, education and 
our access to information, it has changed the very nature of 

Traditional library material (on the left) and modern computer-based systems (on the right) are combined effectively 
in the Learning Resource Centre at Thames Valley University. Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership. 
(Richard Rogers Partnership) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

building types. The library, like the bank, faces the pros- 
pect of redundancy as a traditional urban element — a form 
destined to landmark history but with an ambiguous re- 
lationship with the future. What the next generation of 
libraries will look like is likely to be different from 
inherited expectations. The mental picture of a library held 
by society at large does not suit the e-library. The challenge 
is to evolve a new, shared mental construct for the elec- 
tronic library which allows the building type to both serve 
function and signal meaning in a cultural sense. 

The form/function/meaning equation is society’s way of 
defining a building type. The ‘library’ as a functional label 
had until recently a predictable formal consequence — one 
which architects could draw upon to communicate the 
presence of a library. Such constructs are threatened not 
only by the IT revolution but the trend in western society 
towards the erosion of single building types. For example, 
the airport terminal is also a shopping mall and, in the 
typical urban shopping mall, you may find an airline ticket 
office, certainly a travel agency selling airport services, and 
perhaps a branch library. Singular functions have given 
way to multiple functions. Labels like library , school or 
office are convenient classifications since they give validity 
to typologies, but in an age of multiple functions the clarity 
of form can appear as a hollow gesture. Society is moving 
towards multiple typologies, hybrids of old building types. 
The library is not immune to the trend — in fact in many 
recent library buildings (e.g. Saltire Centre, Glasgow) the 
architect has sought to redefine the typology. If the library 
is to survive as a cherished social institution, designers 
have a duty not to create mongrels of building types or 

The library at the Saltire Centre, Glasgow Caledonia 
University pushes at the frontiers of the academic 
library. (Brian Edwards) 

The interior of new public library in Copenhagen designed by Henning Larsen Architects captures the spirit of new 
design approaches. (Henning Larsen Architects) 


The future of the library 

thoughtless repetition of old solutions but to advance the 
library typology to meet the challenge of the IT age. 

There is a further important point for library design 
which Eco (1987) makes of all buildings. It concerns the 
importance of ordinary language in communicating 
the social meaning of institutions and as a consequence the 
structures which serve them. Eco argues that terms like 
‘library’ are not only a language of words but also of built 
forms. If society ceases to use the word ‘library’, it will 
lose sight of function, form, construction and meaning in 
libraries themselves. Other terms are increasingly 
employed for libraries — learning centres, resource centres, 
computer suites. Without the everyday use of the term 
‘library’, architects will not be able to give authenticity to 
new libraries, even electronic ones. Markus (1993, p. 38) 
makes a similar point: he argues that the anchor of lan- 
guage protects society against the disintegration of social 
fabric and the buildings evolved to serve it. ‘Library’ is, 
therefore, a term we must protect in spite of the funda- 
mental change to the media upon which it is increasingly 

The word ‘library’ is applied to a wide variety of library 
types — national, university, civic, branch and specialist. 
The spread of written media from archival to digital spans 
a similar spectrum of architectural responses as described 
earlier. However, what has begun to emerge is the use of 
libraries beyond their mere functional purpose. For ex- 
ample, many universities see their libraries projecting 
a high-tech and progressive image to their students and the 
outside world. The centrality of the library both physically 

and academically has encouraged universities from Berlin 
to Glasgow to shop window their institutions via the design 
of the library. A similar trend has occurred in public li- 
braries where the need to signal regeneration — social, 
cultural and economic — has encouraged the construction of 
some imageable new libraries from Tower Hamlets in 
London to Seattle and Alexandria. Where modernism once 
produced quasi-identical libraries we now have greater 
specificness and regional authenticity. The latter has been 
partly the result of more attention being paid to climatic 
design spurred by the pursuit of sustainable development. 
In summary, three forces have come together — ecology, 
cultural identity and image branding — to produce a fresh 
and interesting generation of library buildings. 

Lessons from the library at Alexandria 

The library at Alexandria in Egypt is generally considered 
the world’s first library in a modem sense. It occupied 
a wing of the Museum of Alexandria and was surrounded 
by gardens and observatories. The library was for inner 
contemplation, the gardens for outward contemplation. The 
museum stored the artefacts of a civilization, the library its 
written records. Both played a part in storing the knowl- 
edge of the age and making it available to scholars. What is 
significant about the library is that when Ptolomy Phila- 
delphius set it up in 260 BC he gave it an annual grant from 
the royal treasury and put it under the control of a priest 
nominated by the pharaoh. The library was perceived as 

The library as a street 
corner university - the 
metaphor of shop and 
display counter. UMIST 
Library, designed by 
Building Design 
Partnership. (BDP) 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

a collection under state control: it was not trusted to 
scholars to maintain the collection or the building (Davey, 

In many ways it is the organization and management of 
the library at Alexandria which makes it the precursor of 
modern practice, especially that of national libraries. No 
civilization is complete without a state-run library; no 
country is truly democratic without its written records 
being made available to all. It is not scholars or researchers 
who should manage such libraries, but administrators 
appointed directly by government. It is this connection 
between the library as a state-funded service and the library 
as a collection which allows the public library to reflect 
certain democratic principles in its plan and organization. 

The universality of literacy in the twentieth century made 
knowledge available to all via the public library. In this 
compact between the book and the borrower — extended by 
the recent invention of the Internet — the design of libraries 
has profound implications for how society sees its 

relationship to knowledge. The library at Alexandria was 
one of the high points of Hellenistic civilization— not just for 
its collection, but the way the state made the books available 
to scholars throughout the classical world and provided 
gardens and observatories to refresh the mind between 
periods of intense private study. 

The library as shop 

One current trend in library design is to break down the 
barriers between libraries, education and shopping. The 
motive for this comes from the popularity of shopping as 
a leisure pursuit and the success of large bookshops (such 
as Waterstones in the UK) with their relaxed environment. 
Big modem bookshops allow the customer to browse, to 
listen to music and to enjoy coffee and cakes whilst they 
shop. Since many public libraries are seen as ‘dowdy and 
somewhat intimidating institutions’ (Slavid, 1999), there is 
pressure to learn from the retail industry. 

A particular geometry 
of space allows us to 
recognize the library 
as a building type. 
Mito West City 
Library, Japan, 
designed by Chiaki 
Arai Architects. 
(Chiaki Arai 


The future of the library 

The blending of modern and traditional forms at 
Stockholm Public Library. Designed by Gunnar As- 
plund. (Stockholm Public Library) 

One such example is a plan by the London Borough of 
Tower Hamlets to create a string of ‘idea stores’ where 
newly constructed libraries will be near supermarkets 
(Sainsbury’s, Safeway, Tesco, etc.) and offer access to li- 
brary services and training programmes (Slavid, 1999). 
The designs are deliberately eye-catching with highly 
glazed facades, bright colours on the inside and dramatic 
roof shapes. The design for the Whitechapel site in East 
London, for example, features a large electronic message 
board on the front elevation, which communicates news of 
library, educational and social activities to passers-by. 

Like supermarkets, these new ‘ideas stores’ libraries 
will have a brand identity, setting them apart from tradi- 
tional libraries and other public or commercial buildings. 
Chris Smith, the then UK government minister responsible 
for culture, referred to this new generation of libraries as 
having the ‘potential to bring great benefits to the people of 
Tower Hamlets’ (Slavid, 1999). Such a remark signals the 
change in emphasis required of twenty-first century public 
libraries — they need to be people-orientated and to address 
social issues in a broad sense, bringing library, education 
and leisure together in a single building. Smith further 
expressed the view that these new libraries were in the 
‘street corner universities’ of the future. 

The modernist library designed by Denys Lasdun at 
the University of East Anglia expresses ‘libraryness’ 
through measured monumentality. (Brian Edwards) 

Authenticity in design 

The modernist library departed from past typological tra- 
ditions. The rational language of planning represented by 
deep shoebox structures combined with increasingly ab- 
stract technological detailing produced a generation of 
libraries that banished historical references. Architectural 
theory impacted little on these functional entities. Five 
hundred years of library building was cast aside by new 
typological, spatial and technological imperatives. Many 
building types of the twentieth century suffered from 
a similar loss of cultural continuity (Brawne, 1997). Recent 
library designs, especially those in the UK by architects 
such as MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Michael 
Hopkins and Partners, have sought to rediscover an in- 
heritance and make it relevant to the future. With such 
designs, the approach taken is one of using an abstract 
language of space and order rather than the stylistic of 
historic styles motifs. Some of these new libraries take the 
idea that architecture is a form of collective memory and 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

that books are the individual elements of cultural capital. 
Here authenticity in library design is, like in literature and 
art, part of the fundamental landscape of cultural continuity 
(Brawne, 1997). 

If this is the role of the library of the twenty-first cen- 
tury, then what plan should the building adopt in terms of 
the relationship between readers and books? Where in this 
configuration does IT fit? Is the library a building within an 
IT learning centre — a kind of casket of bound volumes of 
print surrounded by promenade space sprinkled with reader 
tables and computer screens? Should the library be more 
akin to the shopping mall where the reader can enter 
‘shops’ for specific study needs, but generally negotiates 
the cafe zone in-between? Where should the reader sit once 
books have been retrieved? Traditionally, the readers had 
their own cavernous ‘reading room’, but the current trend is 
towards placing reader carrels at the building perimeter. 

The choices are by no means simple; much depends 
upon the type of library and the needs of different cate- 
gories of reader. If the library is a form of cultural memory 
with a social significance as great as that of other public 
institutions such as art galleries and museums, then the 
relationship between the object (book) and the user 
(reader) is infused with meaning. Old typological 

classifications were disrupted by the functionalist agenda 
of the twentieth century, yet building types as robust as the 
library have a habit of surviving fashion. Although time 
leads inevitably to typological adjustment, it rarely leads to 
the extinction of a whole class of building. 

Libraries exist because people value the collections they 
hold, their role as meeting places and their proximity to 
other cultural facilities. In the UK, over 350 million visits 
a year are made to public libraries and over half the 
population holds a library card (Glancey, 2000). A trip to 
the library is usually planned and has an objective and 
normally a physical outcome (a borrowed book). The 
outcome may be intellectual nourishment for its own sake, 
information about local facilities, a search for a job or 
details of college courses. The material, whether paper 
based or electronic, represents the means of making con- 
nection in an increasingly fragmented world. The library is 
concerned with overcoming physical, social and economic 
disconnectedness. In an age of digital, all-pervasive 
knowledge where place, time and depth have a tendency to 
erode, the library as a building gives symbolic presence to 
that contained within. 

Design is not a question of abstract efficiency but of 
expressing cultural value. The building has a duty to give 

Peckham Public 
Library responds 
to new cultural 
agendas by de- 
veloping a fresh 
architectural lan- 
guage for the library. 
It seeks to make 
reading fashionable 
again. (Alsop and 


The future of the library 

Brighton Public Library brings environmentalism to the fore, developing another direction for library architecture. 
Designed by Bennetts Associates. (Bennetts Associates) 

protective weight to the collection, to provide interior 
spaces which are social and intellectual commons, and to 
express outwardly the publicness of the institution. In these 
endeavours, ‘design’ is not neutral but expressive of 
symbolic ambition. The human memory contained by the 
collection is a form of living heritage which the building 
must make available. The library, almost uniquely, bridges 
past and future; it feeds the imagination as directly as an art 
gallery. The cognitive space of the library, the electronic 
space of the data, the cultural space of the books, and the 
physical space of the building, together make a library. No 
single part should be evolved independently: the in- 
tegration and adaption of the elements over time creates 
richness. It is important that the architecture of the building 
shares not only a common language but a common intent 
with the collection, the catalogue, the reader and the in- 
formation systems. 

Design challenge for the future 

After a long period of stagnation as a building type, the 
library has begun to change. Those architects familiar with 
the design of libraries are currently enjoying the prospect 
of participating in the development and transformation of 
the library typology (Long, 1995, p. 70). As discussed 
earlier, two forces are reshaping the library — the revolution 
in computing and IT, and the pursuit of more sustainable 
approaches to design. The first is epitomized by the change 
in nomenclature from ‘library’ to ‘learning resource 
centre’, the second by the rejection of deep planned, air- 
conditioned libraries. 

Typologies do not change without considerable external 
pressure. Designers and library clients form a conservative 
body that historically has held on to the tried and tested. The 
domed reading room library survived as a general pattern 
from around 1850 to 1950; the deep plan, square grid, air- 
conditioned library from 1950 to about 1990. Only in the 
past decade has the grip of the deep shoebox library weak- 
ened. In many ways the currents of IT and sustainability 
have been complementary in refiguring the library. Old 

assumptions about flexibility and economy have proved 
false. The deep plan, square box library provided little op- 
portunity for energy efficiency, it was a disorientating type 
of building to use, the heavy loads of deep compact shelving 
made the building structure expensive to build and hard to 
adapt, and the concrete construction gave little scope for 
threading new IT cables through the building. In short, it 
proved inflexible and dull at the same time. 

The deep plan library led inevitably to a great deal of 
artificial light and forced ventilation — frequently to the use 
of full air-conditioning in all areas. Flexibility even dic- 
tated structural loads throughout the building so that floors 
could support compact shelving in any location. The ex- 
pansion in published material from about 1 960 led clients 
to insist upon the accommodation of high impact loads as 
a means of housing the growth in books and journals. Over- 
specification of both structural elements and environmental 
systems led to dull and expensive libraries. The lack of 
variety of space and light intensity led to complaints from 
users (Long, 1995, p. 70) and, ironically, when IT offered 
the chance to house or access information spacelessly, 
these libraries proved incapable of ready adaption to new 
cable layouts. It was a case of the search for flexibility 
without thought or discrimination. 

More recent library designs have almost reversed the 
principles upon which earlier generations of buildings 
were based. The question of orientation and legibility on 
the one hand, and access to natural light, view and ven- 
tilation on the other, has allowed library typology to go 
through a profound change. Most recent libraries are 
shallow (as against deep) in plan, have a variety of type 
of space inside, have daylight throughout (and often 
sunlight in selected areas too), have clearly identified 
routes with their own architectural language, have distant 
views as well as close desk ones and, as a consequence, 
more organic configuration. Functionally, the computing 
and book material is integrated so that the reader can 
move readily between both types of information. The 
furniture and book stacks provide zoning, allowing areas 
to be identified into subject zones without either walls 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Existing scheme section perspective of University of 
East Anglia : CAD modelling of the extensions to the 
library at the University of East Anglia. (Shepheard 
Epstein Hunter) 

or featureless open planning. Many recent libraries have 
streets and squares (rather than corridors and rooms) 
to create the feel of a public building rather than a ware- 
house of books. Reading spaces, some with carrels, 
occupy the perimeter with book stacks acting as thermal 
stores near the building centre. The planning of library use 
and environmental servicing is more closely related than 
in preceding buildings. 

Flexibility in a library is not a question of the use of 
space as such but the variety offered in three key 

• between traditional (i.e. book, journal) and electronic in- 
formation systems 

• between reader space and book-stack space 

• between staff offices and reader space. 

Abstract flexibility has given way to selected intelligent 
flexibility. Only in the most expensive libraries (such as 
national or major academic ones) is high-level flexibility 
justified on cost and operational grounds. Elsewhere the 
trend is towards long-life quality with the avoidance of 

Previous scheme for the external environs of University 
of East Anglia: CAD modelling of the extensions to 
the library at the University of East Anglia. (Shepheard 
Epstein Hunter) 

Future phase in context , University of East Anglia : 
CAD modelling of the extensions to the library at the 
University of East Anglia. (Shepheard Epstein Hunter) 

cheap systems (such as suspended ceilings) and expensive 
and difficult to control engineering (such as air-condi- 
tioning) (Anon., 1989). 

Nowadays the typical public or academic library 
exploits daylight and sunlight, both as an energy source and 
as a means of providing legibility through the building. 


The future of the library 

The library as a language of recognizable forms translated in: (a) the Faculty of Medicine Libray, University of Paris 
(1770); (b) Phoenix Public Library (1995). (Brian Edwards and Andrew North) 

Readers placed around the edge of the building enjoy views 
out to relieve the close work of study, and have the benefit 
of daylight or controlled sunlight. Light-shelves are 
employed to deflect daylight deep into the building and to 

provide solar shading at the edge. Where solar gain is 
a problem (such as on south facing walls), book stacks can 
give useful protection if used in conjunction with a reduced 
glazing area. Cabling for task lighting and computers is 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

The civic status of the 
public library has grown 
following CABE’s pro- 
nouncements. Here 
Brighton Public Library, 
designed by Bennettes 
Associates, shares 
a square with shops and 
cafes. (Bennets 

taken around the perimeter of the building, with IT service 
peninsulas directed inward to connect nearby desks or 

It is commonplace today to integrate the IT and book- 
based collection within the same subject space. Large li- 
braries may also have a dedicated area for computing 
where readers can use PCs to access the Internet and un- 
dertake word processing. It is important that different 
strategies are developed for different types of library area 
in terms of heating, lighting, ventilation, electrical cabling, 
IT cabling and mechanical distribution systems. It is not 
economical to create the highest standard and level of 
provision in every area. Design judgement is needed to 
ensure the appropriate level of facilities for each type of 
space. There needs to be an ‘intelligible order for the 
building, and positive differences of visual environment 
within a simple structural shell’ (Long, 1995, p. 71). The 
search for visual variety driven by technological, ecologi- 
cal and functional need is a defining feature of contem- 
porary library design. 

Visual variety matters as much in the sequencing of 
rooms as in the library rooms themselves. The routes 
through a library provide an essential part of the human 
experience: legibility through different types of volume 
(entrance, corridor, stair, reading area) depends upon the 
manipulation of key architectural elements. Height, pro- 
portion, light, colour and axial termination are important 
physical characteristics; sound, activity and perceptions of 
hierarchy are crucial psychological ones. Many recent 

libraries exploit the interface between people, books and 
computers to generate a legible dialogue of activity vol- 
umes within the library. 

The intelligible sequence of spaces expressed in an ar- 
chitectural order of light and volume is, however, some- 
times undermined by the excessive noise emanating from 
computer suites. Here the tapping of keys and conversation 
between users can, especially in an open-plan library, lead 
to acoustic disturbance. As a consequence there is a trend 
in modern libraries, particularly academic ones, towards 
noise zoning whereby conversation is permitted in IT areas 
but not elsewhere. But with the increase in group study in 
schools and universities, and the growing use of atrium- 
based public libraries on low-energy grounds, the problem 
of noise transfer from computer to reading areas is likely to 
grow. This has led some to suggest the physical segregation 
of multimedia and IT areas from traditional material — for 
example, placing the computer suite on a separate floor or 
wing. Although this may assist noise management, it does 
run counter to the concept of the contemporary library as 
a market place integrating different types of information 
and reader within a common environment. It also dis- 
criminates against those users for whom the computer 
workstation is an alternative to pen and paper. Walls also 
obstruct the natural flow of air, which is the very basis of 
low-energy library design. At the University of Sunder- 
land, the vice-chancellor Anne Wright declared that she 
wanted ‘a library without walls — inside or out’ (Wright, 
1 997). The modem library is a building where ideas and the 


The future of the library 

The “Black Diamond” is formed by two black cubes 
which slightly tilt over the street. The atrium’s exterior 
wall is made of glass, through which you get a 
stunning view of the harbour and luxury buildings on 
the opposite side. (Brian Edwards) 

fresh breezes of technological innovation are allowed to 
flow unimpeded by traditional construction. 

IT and space 

IT has not only changed the way we use libraries, it has 
also led to more fluid space use (less walls) and easier 
communication between librarians, support staff and in- 
formation managers. To some extent, users also become 

their own subject librarians as they search through elec- 
tronic catalogues and download information. A book about 
libraries is essentially a study of function, space and 
structure, yet each is made redundant to a greater or lesser 
degree by the IT revolution. As libraries stabilize after the 
first shock waves of universal e-information (1980—2000), 
one can begin to take stock. The library is still a ‘repository 
of knowledge, a focus for reflection and a centre for ex- 
change’ (Worthington, 1995, p. ii). The medium of 
knowledge has changed: reflection may be via the screen 
rather than the book, and exchange is more likely to be 
electronic than paper based, but the library still exists as 
a distinctive type of contained architectural space. 

As digital technology becomes more universal, it could 
paradoxically be argued that space should become more 
specific. Identity is not destroyed by IT rather the need for 
image and identity is reinforced. In a placeless world of 
electronic data, the real world of place takes on greater 
meaning. This paradox allows new library buildings to take 
on a character which transcends the immediate needs of 
technology. Certainly, within the lifespan of a typical li- 
brary (100-150 years), many technologies come and go. 
Buildings are intergenerational assets that should rise 
above the transient pressures of emerging technologies. 
Whilst they need to accommodate new ways of storing and 
accessing information, libraries are more than giant con- 
tainers for the technology they house. Meaning is an es- 
sential ingredient beyond that of function, and the character 
of space is fundamentally more important than the tech- 
nology it houses. 

New typological 
adjustment for the 
library. Adsetts 
Centre, Sheffield 
Hallam University, 
Designed by Faulkner 
Brown Architects. 
(Sheffield Hallam 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

A new typology for the library and learning 
resource centre 

Library designers today face a particular dilemma. The 
value of precedent upon which typological classification 
depends is made increasingly irrelevant by new functional 
demands. It is not only the revolution in IT services which 
erodes typological clarity, but the blending of library, edu- 
cation and leisure interests into a new kind of single build- 
ing. A typological construct into building types depends 
upon grouping based on certain ‘inherent characteristics 
which makes them similar’ (Bandini, 1993, p. 388). This 
conceptualizing into specific categories is concerned with 
aspects of human thought (i.e. design) and aspects of human 
need (i.e. function). Both have seen unprecedented change 
in terms of libraries over the past decade. 

Like most recognizable public buildings, libraries are 
rich in historic precedent and typological reference. Such 
buildings do not exist in a vacuum but in a context. It is 
a context which can be employed or rejected but cannot be 
ignored. No architect can ignore the cultural significance of 
the library — it has fashioned at least two centuries of ar- 
chitectural thought. But as the cultural and technical pa- 
rameters that gave credibility to a recognizable typological 
classification are eroded, the designer today faces a chal- 
lenge of evolving a new order for the library. The old 
formal expression, whether it was the domed reading room 
of the nineteenth century or the deep planned shoebox li- 
brary of more recent times, has become irrelevant. The task 
for today is to evolve a fresh generation of libraries which 
represent Tibraryness’ in the mind of society yet signal the 
presence of learning resource centres effectively. 

Architects need to manipulate the concept of cultural pa- 
rameter in order to create a new typological order for the 
electronic, ideas-rich, knowledge-based library. 

Most buildings are designed as an exercise in ‘seriality’ 
(Bandini, 1993, p. 388). They develop from a recognizable 
order, with each new building introducing ‘newness’ into 
the lineage. The concept of seriality depends upon the 
presence of a formal typology. This sharing of inherent 
characteristics allows the grouping into types to occur and 
offers the chance to break free of constraint. Until the 
computer revolution of the 1980s and growing global 
concerns about environmental stress (about half of all 
man’s ecological impact is building related), the library 
was a reproducible form. Its basic footprint — the re- 
lationship between plan, section and elevation — and its 
internal sequences of space and control were all predictable 
and exploitable as a language. Countless libraries from the 
1950s to 1990 followed the same recipes. Whilst it was not 
an ideal type which evolved, it did represent the power of 
precedent to fashion thought. 

Today’s architects face two particular difficulties — the 
first is to evolve a new typology for the modern library, the 
second is to create a new ideal building construct (called 
a ‘library’ or ‘learning resource centre’) which signals 
meaning by making reference to social codes of un- 
derstanding. The first is primarily about function, 
programme and performance; the second is to ensure that 
architectural invention coexists with the ‘tradition and 
authority of precedents’ (Bandini, 1993, p. 389). Whereas 
the thought processes which underpin modernity provide 
the means to tackle the first, those of post-modernity are 
better equipped for the second. And here we have the key 

The Michael Howard 
Reading Room at the 
Liddle Hart Centre for 
Military Archives, King’s 
College London. 
Designed by Shepheard 
Epstein Hunter, the 
reading room success- 
fully integrates historic 
and contemporary 
information systems. 
(Shepheard Epstein 


The future of the library 

Changing characteristics of library design 

1 850-1 950 Large, often circular, reading room 

Separate subject rooms 

Seating normally in centre 

Non-electronic security 

High ceilings 

Large, tall windows 

Steel and timber construction with 
load-bearing walls 

Card index or ledger type 

1950-1990 Deep plan 

Uniform, low suspended ceilings 

Horizontal bands of windows 

Concrete construction with 

Square reading room 

Open plan 

Electronic security 

Seating at perimeter 


Microfiche catalogue 

1990-onwards Shallow plan 

Relatively high ceilings 

Perimeter windows and 
central atriums 

Open fluid plan 

Natural light and ventilation in 
most areas 

Mechanical ventilation in ‘hot 

(photocopying, etc.) 

Perimeter cabling for IT 
Task lighting 

Book stacks used as thermal store 
Streets or areas of computers as 
anti-rooms to main library 
Computer catalogue 

Natural light enters deeply into the library known as 
the Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonia University, 
designed by BDP. The fluid spaces in the library 
encourage interdisciplinary study. (Brian Edwards) 

to resolving the central dilemma of typology for the elec- 
tronic, non-book-based library. Designers need to assign to 
type an ideal role for IT in society. The type will then 
fashion the various library buildings created in its wake. 
The conventions of precedent and tradition will in time 
generate a new typological order for lesser designers to 

The first signs of the evolution of a new ideal order for 
the library are to be found in the fusion of library and 
computer buildings on university campuses. Typical of 
these are the Thames Valley University Library, designed 
by the Richard Rogers Partnership, the libraries at Cran- 
field and Cambridge Universities designed by Foster and 
Partners, the Adsetts Centre at Sheffield Hallam University 
designed by Faulkner Brown, and the library at Sunderland 
University designed by BDP. What they have in common is 
a search for new, more fluid arrangements in plan and 
section. The buildings flow as activities change in space 
and time: the currents of movement (both human and 
electronic) fashion the whole. The mental construct upon 
which these buildings are based represents a new model 
which is not rooted in history but the geometrical demands 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Eye-catching shape of the library at Temasek Poly- 
technic, Singapore. Designed by Michael Wilford and 
Partners. (Michael Wilford and Partners) 

of new technology, new ways of accessing information and 
fresh environmental concerns. The conventions of tradition 
are not entirely ignored but, as at Peckham Public Library 
designed by Alsop and Stormer, given fresh meaning by 
transformation. The social codes are altered in the process 
creating new cultural understandings of what a library 
looks like. Meaning, function and form — the basic ele- 
ments of typological understanding — are skilfully 

A key to facilitating this transformation lies in the use of 
transparency. Being primarily an internal and introverted 
space, the library requires a high level of permeability for 
its activities to be perceived as accessible. Such perme- 
ability is both physical and perceptual — visitors need to 
feel they can readily reach the interior spaces. Walls, where 
they are needed, should be fully glazed to allow the interior 
world to impact upon the exterior realm. It should be 
possible to ‘see’ and ‘read’ the interior volumes using 
a language of understood codes. Such reading is a dialogue 
between solid and transparent elements, in the use of shape 
and colour and interpenetration of function. It is no co- 
incidence that the new libraries listed earlier are highly 
glazed — the merest containers of glass to house highly 
visible internal activities. 

Distinctive entrance canopy at the Surrey History 
Centre Library, Woking. (W S Atkins) 

New construction technologies used at the Law Li- 
brary, Cambridge University. Designed by Foster and 
Partners. (Dennis GilbertA/iew) 


The future of the library 

Author’s sketch of the 
main reading room at 
Alexandria Public Li- 
brary designed by Sno- 
hetta Architects. The 
room seeks to symbol- 
ize modern knowledge 
systems and learning on 
the site of the world’s 
first library built nearly 
2,000 years ago. (Brian 

Libraries in a state of flux 

Since the first edition of this book libraries of all types have 
displayed even more characteristics of a building type in 
rapid evolution. New information technologies coupled 
with a growing interest in the role of architecture to enrich 
the civic realm have liberated libraries from older design 
stereotypes. A number of other factors has been at work as 
well, such as the concept of life-long learning, the com- 
munity benefits of literacy training in an age of peoples 
migration, the awareness amongst national governments of 
the cultural inheritance embodied in library collections, the 
massive expansion in higher and further education, and, 
finally, the merging of cultural institutions around media 
centres. These have stressed the library as a service but for 
the architect, the expansion in functions and facilities as- 
sociated with the twenty-first century library has had the 
effect of expanding the design potential of the building 

Public libraries, like art galleries a decade earlier, have 
awoken from half a century of functional slumbers. They 
have assumed their role as one of the great civic institutions, 
providing access to knowledge (and hence power), to de- 
mocracy via their classless world of free books and journals, 
and to public space and heroic urban shelters for rich and 
poor alike. Libraries are the first port of call for many people 
who are new to neighbourhoods, countries or continents, 
and here these people are as likely to start their visit with 
a sip of coffee in convivial surroundings as engage imme- 
diately with the book catalogue. The old dialogue in built 
form between the reading room, reference library and 
lending library has been replaced by grand public spaces, 
made possible by replacing many books with digital vol- 
umes. With the book repository relegated to basement floors 
or placed in compact shelving units, the library has assumed 

a new role as public learning and meeting place. Coupled 
with this, the former emphasis on silence has been overtaken 
by the tapping of keyboards and the excited chatter of 
knowledge seekers and Google searchers. This has been 
beneficial to many communities and to local businesses 
which increasingly use public and university libraries to 
meet their knowledge needs (Boddy, 2006). 

Libraries now trade on comfort, 24-hour access, retail 
type facilities, colour and glamour. The fortress world of 
many modernist libraries has been replaced by mediateques 
inhabited by people who take a pride in their city and want to 
invest in the public realm. This expansion in aspiration has 
been matched by a fundamental reassessment of the design 
of the public library by librarians and their architects. New 
functions have led to the generation of new forms or hy- 
bridized old ones. The early twenty-first century has been an 
exciting time for libraries, particularly public ones. 

With the expansion in services provided by libraries, 
their entrance floors have gone through the most funda- 
mental change. No longer is security the primary objective; 
instead libraries have an open doors policy like shopping 
malls. All are welcome through these new democratic 
portals of knowledge exchange. With this change has come 
a greater attention to the external civic space and the ex- 
ternal image of the building. A new generation of library 
squares, gardens and sculpture courts has been provided at 
the entrance, many containing benches and play areas for 
children. This stitching into the civic realm has allowed 
public libraries to contribute towards wider urban 

Public libraries are the most enduring buildings of many 
cities and academic libraries, often the most durable 
buildings of university campuses. Their survival reflects 
their importance and their ability to adapt to changing 
priorities. However, recent changes have exceeded the 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

capacity of many libraries to accommodate the storage of 
new forms of knowledge and to make it available in at- 
tractive surroundings. Hence, many new libraries have 
been built linked to museums or retail areas in the hope of 
engaging in cross-cultural dialogue. The new generation of 
libraries is refreshingly innovative both in design and in 
terms of the diversity of their information provision. In this 
they are built statements confirming our commitment to 
democratic ideals and social progress. 

In some ways libraries have become engaged in the 
theoretical debates surrounding architecture in the twenty- 
first century (Davey, 2005). As the case studies in the book 
demonstrate, libraries have been at the forefront of new 
forms of social engagement through design. From Seattle 
to Kyoto, libraries have pushed at design frontiers just as 
art galleries did a decade or two earlier. The need to make 
statements has often superseded the imperative of func- 
tionalism with its emphasis upon programmatic fit and 
high-tech solutions. New libraries have engaged in more 
art-orientated design approaches with the emphasis upon 
colour, fluid spaces and cultural resonance. Functional ef- 
ficiency, though laudable in itself, is a poor guide in an age 
of rapid social, environmental and technological change. 
Too close a fit is a sure recipe for speedy obsolescence. 
Many architects are aware of this and seek instead to 
connect with symbolic meaning. 

After all, as Umberto Eco reminds us, a distinction 
exists between the abstractions of information and the 
cultural resonance of the media which carries it (Eco, 
1989). This distinction adds meaning and value to the 
knowledge. However, the meaning behind the concept of 
the library lies in a number of different cultural and social 
ideals. In an age when information has few walls, when 
knowledge is transmitted and shared at an unprecedented 
pace, the justification for the library as a building resides in 
notions of democracy and collective space. The creation 
and design of a library is ultimately a political act. 


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Webb, M. (ed.) (1999). Building Libraries for the 21 st century: the 
shape of Information. McFarland and Company, London. 

Worpole, K. (2004). 21 st century Libraries: changing forms, 
changing futures. Building Futures 


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(Individual public libraries are listed under the city/town in 
which they are located. Page numbers in italics refer to 
figure s/illustrations) 

Aberystwyth, Wales, National Library, 116, 118 
academic libraries. See university libraries 

disabled, 57 
entrances/exits, 30—1 
services/deliveries, 33 
staff, 32-3 

acoustic zoning, 87—90 
air-conditioning, 84—6 
air quality, indoor, 78 

Aldham Robarts Learning Resource Centre (Liverpool, 
UK), 212-14, 213 
Alexandria, Egypt 

ancient library, xi, 249—50 

modern public library (Bibliotheca Alexandria), 143, 
147-50, 148, 149, 261 

American Memorial Library, Children’s Library 
(Berlin, Germany), 228 

design considerations, 43—6, 44 
dome and cube, 3 ,4, 15 
art galleries 

separation from libraries, 14 
shared origins, 4 
assessment of needs, 36 

Ballieu Arts and Humanities Library (Melbourne, 
Australia), 96, 98—9 

Barcelona, Spain, Jaume Fuster Public Library, 
177-8, 178 

Berkeley, USA, University of California, 6 
Doe Library, 95 

library provision and facilities, 194 
Berlin, Germany 

American Memorial Library, Children’s Library, 

Free University Library, 45, 188, 247 
Wolfenbuttel Library, 3 

Bibliotheca Alexandria (Egypt), 143, 147—50, 148, 

Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris, France), 115, 125, 125—7, 

Bodleian Library (Oxford, UK), 3, 11, 56, 107 
book stack 

layout considerations, 5 1 
reading room vs, 36, 37 

delivery to readers, 58 
historical library use/storage, 7 
pollution, 86-7 

Bournemouth Public Library, UK, 31, 164—5, 165 
Brandenburg, Germany, Technical University Library, 
222, 223 
Brighton, UK 

Public Library, 19, 88, 163, 163-4, 253, 256 
University of Sussex, campus plan, 29 
British Museum, Reading Room, 11,77 
Brotherton Library (Leeds, UK), 8, 198 
building types 

historical development, 3—22 
impact on libraries’ future, xiii, 246—9 
listed libraries, 93—5 

cabling needs, 92—3 
Cambridge, UK 

Katherine Stephen Rare Books Library, 233, 235, 235-6 
Law Library, 82, 110, 204, 20A-7, 205, 206, 207, 260 
University Library, 74, 102, 200 
Cape Town, South Africa 
National Library, 127—8 
University of, Jagger Library, 198, 198—201 
carrels, 53^4, 54, 105 
Caxton printing press, xii 
Champaign Public Library, Illinois, USA, 171—2 
change, accommodating, 37 

Charlottesville, USA, University of Virginia Library, 4 
Chelmsford, UK, Anglia Ruskin University Learning 
Resources Centre (Queens Building), 83, 84, 211, 
Chicago, USA 

Harold Washington Public Library, 81, 109, 111, 150—1, 

Oak Park Public Library, 62, 110, 143, 173, 174, 174-6 
circulation desks, 50—1 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

civic functions/library relationship, 30 

classification systems, 12 

collections, major libraries, 17 

Colombo, Sri Lanka, National Library, 129, 130, 131 

commissioning, 37—8 


books vs environmental needs, 6—9 
space provision for, 73 
See also information technology (IT) 
conservation of historic libraries 
large-scale, 91—5 
small-scale, 96—7 
construction materials, 63-4, 79 
Copenhagen, Denmark 
public library, 27, 248 

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, architecture 
library, 40 

Royal Library (‘Black Diamond’), 722, 133 — 4, 134, 
135, 257 

Cranfield, UK, University Library, 61, 209, 209—11 
cultural symbol, library as, 9—13 
cyclists, 78 

Delft, The Netherlands, Technical University Library, 
214-16, 275 

access issues, 33 
conceptual diagram, 32 
hierarchy of, 29 

Des Moines Public Library, USA, 152, 152—3 

architecture, 43—6 
authenticity in, 25 1—3 
briefs, 35—6, 36 
criteria, 39-40 
engineering, 77—90 

environmental considerations, 57, 62—3 

environmental strategies, different time periods, 85 

factors leading to change in, 1 8 

flexibility, 49 

furniture, 60—2 

future challenges, 253—7 

historical, 3—33, 259 

interior, 47—64 

library characteristics, 1 82 

national libraries, 44, 120 

public libraries, 43, 143—4, 183 

quality, achieving, 35 

security, 55—8 

shelving, 60—2 

shopping malls’ influence, 40-2 
of space, 8—9 

templates, by library type, 42—4 
university libraries, 42, 188 

urban, 25—9 

dimensional co-ordination, 102 

Doe Library (Berkeley, USA, University of California), 

dome and cube architecture, 3, 4, 15 
Dundee, Scotland, University of Abertay, 85, 207, 207—9, 

Dunsmuir Public Library, USA, 41 
Dursley Public Library, UK, 180-1 

e-leaming, 75 
Edinburgh, Scotland 
National Library, 130, 131—3 
Scottish Poetry Library, 53, 64, 227, 232—5 
changing pattern, 1 89 
role in library development, 4 
Eltham Public Library, Australia, 179—80, 180 
energy use, 77—8 
engineering design, 77—90 
entrances, conceptual diagram, 32 
environmental impacts, 77—8, 79 
Epsom, UK, Ebbisham Centre Library, 182, 182—3 
ergonomics, 50-1 

Espoo Public Library, Finland, 176-7, 777 
extensions, 93, 94, 95, 99—100 

Faulkner-Brown, Harry, 39-40 
fire risk, 57—8 

Free University Library (Berlin, Germany), 188, 247 
energy efficiency, 89 
plan, 45 

Fuji, Japan, City Library, 142 

functional vs aesthetic/cultural space, 43—6, 48 


children’s, 103 

design, 60-2 

interior character and, 63 

IT equipment integration, 69 

layout considerations, 56 

layout influence on social contact, 55 

UK manufacturers, 101 

Glasgow, Scotland, Caledonia University, Saltire Centre, 
18, 33, 74, 201, 218, 218-19, 248, 259 
Gottingen, Germany, National Library, 128, 128—30 
Grande Bibliotheque du Quebec (Montreal, Canada), 755, 

Green Library (Palo Alto, USA, Stanford University), 97, 

‘Green’ Library (Sunderland University, UK), 80 
‘green’ travel plans, 78—9 




flexibility and, 49—50 
outhousing, 58 
planning for, 29 
space stress, 47—8 
subdividing buildings, 50 
in university libraries, 192-4 
in USA libraries, 107 

Hallam University Library (Sheffield, UK), 257 
Hampshire, UK, Discovery Centres, 1 8 1—2 
Harold Washington Public Library (Chicago, USA), 81 , 
109 , 111 , 150-1, 151 

Hatfield, UK, University of Hertfordshire Library, 51 , 83 , 
86 , 214 

Havana, Cuba, National Library, 116 
Hirata Public Library, Japan, 82 , 93 
history of libraries, xi— xiii, 3—22 
Huddersfield, UK, university library statistics, 196 

information technology (IT) 
challenge to libraries, xiii 
impact of, 67—75 
Internet, xi 
libraries and, 9, 13 
planning library workstations, 72—3 
space and, 70, 73, 257 
university library layout and, 197—8 
interior design, 47—64 

Irvine, USA, University of California, Science 
Library, 234, 236-8, 237 

Jagger Library (Cape Town, South Africa), 198 , 198—201 
Jaume Fuster Public Library (Barcelona, Spain), 177—8, 

Johannesburg, South Africa, Sandton Public 
Library, 172 , 172-3 

John Moores University, Aldham Robarts Learning 
Resource Centre (Liverpool, UK), 212—14, 213 
Joule Library, UMIST (Manchester, UK), 42 , 59 , 249 
Jubilee campus library (Nottingham, UK), 42 , 246 

Kansai Science City, Japan, National Library, 132 , 133 
Katherine Stephen Rare Books Library (Cambridge, UK), 
233, 235 , 235-6 

Lancaster, UK 

Ruskin Library, 195 , 230-2, 231 , 232 
University Library, 53 , 59 , 199 
landscaping biodiversity, 79 


flexibility, 50-2, 51 
furniture, 55, 56 
national libraries, 122 
rooms, 60-2 

university libraries and IT, 197—8 
learning resource centres 
new typology, 258—60 
origins of term, xiii 
Leeds, UK, Brotherton Library, 8 , 198 
lending flow pattern, 52 

definitions/use of term, xiii, 22 
design characteristics, 1 82 
importance, 245—6 

interrelationships between types, ideal pattern, 138 
recent trends, 26 1—2 
as shop (retail), 19, 40-2, 51, 250-1 
types and functions, 21 
lighting, 82—3 

Linkoping, Sweden, Library, 87 
listed library buildings, 93—5 

Liverpool, UK, John Moores University, Aldham Robarts 
Learning Resource Centre, 212—14, 213 
Liverpool, University of, Sydney Jones Library, 41 , 75 , 94 , 
97 , 100 , 191 
extension, 99—100 

Ljubljana, Slovenia, National Library, 117 
locations/site factors, planning, 25—34, 58 
London, UK 

British Library, 108 , 120-5, 1 23 , 124 
‘Idea Stores’, 27, 7^L-5, 165-7, 166 , 167 , 251 
King’s College, Liddell Hart Centre, Military Archives 
Library, 62,258 

Peckham Public Library, 28 , 157 , 158, 159 , 159-60, 

Putney Public Library, 72, 94 , 97—8 
Swiss Cottage Library, 15 
University of Westminster, Marylebone Campus 
Library, 57 

Women’s Library, 238-41, 240 

Magdeburg, Germany, University Library, 219—20, 220 
Malmo, Sweden, Public Library, 71 , 169—71, 170 , 171 
planning, 38—9 
stock, 51 

workstations, 72—3 
Manchester, UK 

Central Public Library, 12, 13 
Joule Library, UMIST, 42 , 59 , 249 
Melbourne, Australia 

Ballieu Arts and Humanities Library, 96 , 98—9 
Ringwood Public Library, 178—9, 179 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

Milton Keynes, UK, Open University library, 87 
Mito, Japan, West City Library, 250 
modem libraries 
definition, 3 
emergence, 13—16 
form, development of, xi— xii 
issues, 12—13 
Montreal, Canada 

National Library Quebec, 121 

Public Library (Grande Bibliotheque du Quebec), 155 , 

Munster, Germany, Public Library, 167—9, 168 

separation from libraries, 14 
shared origins, 4 

Nassau, Bahamas, Public Library, 95 
national libraries 
Canada, 117 
Cuba, 116 

Denmark, 122 , 133—4, 134 , 135 , 257 

design, 44 , 120 

diagrammatic layout, 122 

France, 115 , 125 , 125-7, 1 26 

functions of, 1 1 8—20 

Germany, 128 , 128—30 

India, 134—6, 135 

Italy, 119, 119 

Japan, 132 , 133 

Norway, 50 , 97 , 108 , 119-20, 121 

Quebec, 121 

Scotland, 130 , 131-3 

Slovenia, 117 

South Africa, 127—8 

Sri Lanka, 129 , 130, 131 

UK, 108 , 120-5, 123 , 124 

USA, 116, 118 

Wales, 1 16, 118 

New Delhi, India, Parliamentary Library, 134—6, 135 
New York City, USA 

Columbia University Library, 96 
University Reading Room, 4 
noise, 87—90, 199 , 200 
Norwich, UK 

Public Library, 26 , 160 , 160-3, 161,162 
University of East Anglia (UEA) Library, 99 , 99—100, 
251 , 254 

Nottingham, UK, University of 
Hallward Library, 1 7 
Jubilee campus library, 42 , 246 

Oak Park Public Library (Chicago, USA), 62 , 110 , 143 , 
173 , 174 , 174-6 

obsolescence, types of, 91—3 
Oslo, Norway 

National Library, 50 , 97 , 108 , 119-20, 121 
Public Library, 92 

Ottawa, Canada, National Library, 117 
outhousing, 58 
Oxford, UK 

Bodleian Library, 3, 11, 56 , 107 
Radcliffe Camera, xi, 4, 1 1 
University Social Studies Library, 109 

Palo Alto, USA, Stanford University 
Green Library, 97,246 
library provision and facilities, 194 
Paris, France 

National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale), 115 , 125 , 
125-7, 126 

University of, Faculty of Medicine Library, 


personal/working space, 53—5 

Phoenix, USA, Public Library, 54 , 81 , 86 , 255 


contributors, 38 
first stages, 36-7 
forming teams, 37—8 
‘green’ travel, 78—9 
growth, 29 

locations/site factors, 25—34 
management, 38—9 
national libraries, 120 
security, 55—8 
technical criteria, 37 
university libraries, 192—5 
workstations, 72—3 
pollution, from books, 86-7 

Portsmouth, UK, University Library, 90 , 220 — 2 , 221 
power politics, libraries, 7—8 
presidential libraries, 230 
public libraries, 137—84 
contemporary role, 20 
crisis in, 141 
design, 43 , 183 
design strategies, 143 — 4 
environment, 141—2 
funding, 142—3 
ideal design, 43 

information technology (IT) and, 70-2 
major, 147—58 
medium-sized, 159—83 
purposes and functions, 137—8 
services provided, 5 1 
social capital, as, 140-1 
social role, 139-40 
space standards, 49 



‘street comer university’ concept, 138—9 
types, 144—7, 145 , 1 46 
See also individual libraries by city 
public library movement, 12 

Radcliffe Camera (Oxford, UK), xi, 4, 1 1 
reading room 

book stack vs, 36, 37 
historical development, 7 
importance, 58—60 
recycling and waste, 80 
refurbishment, 91—100 
Renaissance libraries, 3, 10-11 
retail in libraries, 19, 40-2, 51, 250-1 
Ringwood Public Library (Melbourne, Australia), 178—9, 

risks, 56—8 

Rome, Italy, National Library, 119, 119 
Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, architecture library 
(Copenhagen, Denmark), 40 
Royal Library (‘Black Diamond’) (Copenhagen, 
Denmark), 122, 133-4, 134, 135, 257 
Ruskin Library (Lancaster, UK), 195, 230—2, 231, 232 

Sacramento, USA, California State University Library, 


St. Helier, Jersey, Archive Library, 238, 239, 240 
Saltire Centre (Glasgow, Scotland, Caledonia University), 
18, 33, 74, 201, 218 
San Francisco, USA 

Mission Bay Public Library, 16, 175, 176, 176 
Public Library, 20, 31 

Scottish Poetry Library (Edinburgh, Scotland), 53, 64, 227, 

Seattle, USA, Public Library, 18, 32, 156, 156-8 

library location, 58 
planning and design, 55—8 
risks, 56—8 

Seiki University Library (Tokyo, Japan), 222—5, 224 
services provided by libraries, 47, 51, 70 
Sheffield, UK 

Hallam University Library, 257 
St George’s Library, 28 
University Library, 5 

design, 60—2 
fireproof, 56 

space requirements, 106—8 
UK manufacturers, 101, 104 
shopping malls 

influence on library design, 40—2 
See also retail in libraries 

site planning considerations, 25 
sitting vs standing in libraries, 4, 7, 10 
Slough, UK, Thames Valley University, Learning 
Resource Centre, 201-4, 202, 203, 247 

computers/IT and, 70, 73, 257 

functional vs cultural, 43—6, 48 

growth stress, 47—8 

historical use of, 5—9 

interior design and, 47-64 

personal/working areas, 53—5 

recommended allowances by library type, 48—9 

service vs in libraries, 70 

shelving needs, 1 06—8 

staff, 51-2 

in university libraries, 191—2, 195 
specialist libraries, 227-41 
common types, 234 
professional, 238 

access, 32—3 
accommodation, 51—2 
role, xiii 

management, 51 

percentage of books and journals on open shelves, by 
library type, 194 

Stockholm, Sweden, Public Library, 12, 13, 251 
storage, 101—14 

depths and loads by type, 109 
historical library use/storage, 7 
special needs, 103, 103—5, 109—11 
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, Shakespeare Institute Library, 

‘street comer university’ concept, 138—9 
Sunderland, City Library, 54 
Sunderland, University of 

Catherine Cookson Reading Room, 216-18, 217 
‘Green’ Library, 80 

Learning Resource Centre (1996), 16, 48, 73 
Surrey History Centre Library (Woking, UK), 229, 


surveillance, 55 
sustainability, 77—80 

Sydney Jones Library, see under Liverpool, UK 

tables, 54, 54-5, 61 
technical criteria, 77—90 
Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore, 31, 260 
theft, 56 

Toddington, UK, Manor Library, 6 

Tokyo, Japan, Seiki University Library, 222—5, 224 

transportation/travel, ‘green’, 78—9 

twenty-first century libraries, 17—22, 36, 37 


Libraries and Learning Resource Centres 

university libraries, 185—225 
accommodation needs, 1 96 
centrality of, 187—9 
conceptual diagram, 196 
design, 42 , 188 

education role in library development, 4 
education/teaching, changing pattern, 189 
elements of, 194—7 
ideal design, 42 

informal learning spaces in, 191—2 
information technology (IT) layout, 197—8 
learning resource centres, 189—91 
noise zoning, 199 
planning for growth, 1 92-4 
planning of space standards, 195 
plans of, historical, 186 
services provided, 5 1 
space standards, 49 
UK typical example, 196 
USA library provision and facilities example, 

See also individual libraries by city 

urban design, 25—9 
user needs, 53—5 

Vancouver, Canada, Public Library, 59, 61, 153, 153—5, 

ventilation, 83-4, 90 

Viipuri, Russia, Public Library, 10, 12, 14 
virtual libraries, 68 

Washington, DC, USA, Library of Congress, 116, 118 
water conservation, 79 
windows, 80—1 

Woking, UK, Surrey History Centre Library, 229, 260 
Wolfenbiittel Library (Berlin, Germany), 3 
work areas/workstations, 53—5, 72—3, 105 
Wye, UK, College of St. Gregory and St. Martin Library, 
101, 102 

zoning, acoustic, 87—90